Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt Chapters 7-8

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ezumeimages

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ezumeimages

Attempts to explain away the problem of the Cambrian explosion have continued since Darwin fist recognized the issue. The Cambrian explosion, and the Precambrian mini explosion before it, pose a direct challenge to evolutionary theory because the life forms that appeared in those relatively shorts periods of time arose suddenly and without apparent ancestors, at least as revealed in the fossil record. That they appeared suddenly defies the evolutionary necessity of long periods of time of gradual evolutionary change. That they appeared without apparent prior ancestors, obviously, negates the idea of an evolutionary tree altogether.

Darwin assumed that subsequent discoveries would fill in the gaps. Subsequent archaeology, far from filling in the gaps, has only exposed the gap to be wider than first believed. The gap in the record before the Precambrian period and the much wider gap from the Precambrian period to the Cambrian remains. The “lost” intervening fossils have never been found and are not likely to be found; so, other explanations are needed to sustain Darwinian Theory.

That is the subject of chapters 7-8 of Stephen C. Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt. I lay out the basic problems in the first article in this blog series exploring chapters 1-4, and dig deeper into the problem Meyer explores in chapters 5 & 6 in a subsequent article. In this third article in the series, we dig deeper and wider still looking for possible solutions to the dilemma that still remains.

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Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt Chapters 5-6

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / radiantskies

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / radiantskies

I received the book, Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer, as a gift and have been reading and reviewing it on this blog. I learn better by processing what I read, and processing, for me, means writing.

In the first installment, I breezed through the first four chapters of the book in which Meyer introduces the problem of “Darwin’s doubt”, the Cambrian Explosion. Darwin knew the sudden proliferation of life forms in the Cambrian era was a problem to his theory, but hoped future discoveries would prove his theory right.

The Theory of Evolution necessarily requires long periods of gradual change in which natural selection works to weed out unproductive traits in favor of productive traits, slowly and almost imperceptibly evolving from simple life forms to more complex life forms and from one life form to another life form.

The Cambrian “explosion” contraindicated Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Darwin, himself, highlighted that fact, but he assumed that future discoveries would fill in the missing gaps that did not appear in the fossil record in his time. Meyer traces the most relevant history since Darwin’s time to “tell the rest of the story”, which turns out does not confirm his assumption. In fact, subsequent discoveries accentuate the problem.

In the next two chapters, Meyer explains how the scientific community has attempted to fill that gap with solutions that explain away the gap. Rather than question Darwin’s theory, they have moved to the molecular record to vindicate the theory to which the scientific community long ago committed. Meyer carefully explains how the Cambrian gap and less remarkable (but no less significant) Precambrian gap are not bridged by molecular analysis or anatomical analysis.

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Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt Chapters 1-4

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / tantrik71

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / tantrik71

I received the book, Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer, for Christmas. Since my college days, I have always been interested in “truth” in whatever form it may be revealed. As someone who spent his academic career in the “liberal arts” and post academic career in the law, I do not have a robust scientific background, but science interests me, especially as it relates to origins and ultimate truth.

Not being thoroughly inculcated in the sciences, I am not apt to read through scientific journals and must rely on someone to “break it down” for me. Stephen Meyer does that remarkably well in Darwin’s Doubt. Though I am a man of faith, I am keenly aware that religious folk can be very unscientific about science. If I am going to consider information and arguments, I want them to be well stated, well researched and deferential to scholarly analysis and opinions. Darwin’s Doubt meets that test.

Meyer’s launching point, as suggested by the title of the book, is a problem that Darwin himself recognized. That problem is known as the Cambrian Explosion. The sudden and prolific “explosion” of new life forms that appear in the fossil record in the Cambrian period is a problem for Darwinism. If the Cambrian explosion can not be explained by Darwinian theory (as it has evolved since the 1800’s), there may be reason to discount it or abandon it altogether.

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A Cosmological Argument for God

Clouds over Connelly's & Utz's

A Cosmological Argument for God:

  • If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause
  • The universe began to exist
  • Therefore, the universe had a cause

To suppose that something sprang into being, uncaused out of nothing is worse than believing in magic, according to Dr. William Lane Craig. If a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least you start with the magician, as well as the hat. Magicians, rabbits and hats combine to trick our minds with illusion, but we know it is an illusion. We know the reality is belied by what we think we see.

Call it intuition. Call it something else. Our observation fails sometimes to provide us the complete picture, but we “know” the reality nevertheless.

Lawrence Krauss makes the case for the universe arising out of nothing. But, when he talks about nothing, he is not talking about absolutely nothing. His “nothing” is actually vacuums of energy. Something can hardly be nothing. David Albert, the philosopher of science, and Ph.D. in quantum physics, calls Krauss’s argument “wrong”, but I dare say it does not take a Ph.D. to know that Krauss cannot be right.

Krauss’s nothing, like the rabbit pulled out of a hat, simply begs the next question: where did the vacuums of energy come from? And, if the answer is simply other vacuums of energy (like other Big Bangs, or other universes, or aliens), you know what the next question will be. This reasoning is an infinite series of regress. It is an exercise in avoiding the only other plausible possibility.

The scientific evidence suggests that the reality we know had a beginning. The Big Bang theory, the expanding universe, the second law of thermodynamics, the radiation afterglow and other observations all suggest that the universe had a beginning. Tufts Professor, Alexander Vilenkin, claims to have discovered, after 35 years of tracing the universe back in time, that, prior to the beginning of the universe, there was not another universe, or aliens or anything; “there was nothing, nothing at all, not even time itself.

That, indeed is a tough pill to swallow for a scientific and intellectual community that desperately wants “something” to have always existed. Anything will do, as long as it provides an alternative to the conclusion that an uncaused Causer, an unmoved Mover got the ball rolling. That we are left with no satisfactory explanation but that some intelligence designed the universe (itself being infinite and outside of time, space and even matter) is inescapable.

Many an honest atheist concedes this point:

“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say “supernatural”) plan.”

(Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, “Cosmos, Bios, and Theos,” page 83)

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

(Dr. Francis Crick, biochemist, Nobel Prize winner, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, pg. 88)

“There are only two possibilities as to how life arose; one is spontaneous generation arising to evolution, the other is a supernatural creative act of God, there is no third possibility. Spontaneous generation that life arose from non-living matter was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others. That leaves us with only one possible conclusion, that life arose as a creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God, therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution.”

(Dr. George Wald, evolutionist, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University at Harvard, Nobel Prize winner in Biology.)

“Darwin’s theory of evolution is the last of the great nineteenth-century mystery religions. And as we speak it is now following Freudians and Marxism into the Nether regions, and I’m quite sure that Freud, Marx and Darwin are commiserating one with the other in the dark dungeon where discarded gods gather.”

(Dr. David Berlinski, Ph.D from Princeton, Philosopher and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture – a self-described secular Jew)

As to the argument that there is no reason to endow the cause of the universe with any of the properties normally ascribed to God, this is the response:

What properties must the cause of the universe possess? According to Dr. William Lane Craig, the cause of the universe must have the following attributes:

  • The cause of space and time must transcend space and time
  • It must, therefore, be spaceless and timeless
  • It must, therefore, be changeless and immaterial
  • Anything that is timeless must be unchanging (anything that is material is always changing, at least at the atomic and molecular level)
  • Such a cause must be beginningless and uncaused because there cannot be an infinite regress of causes
  • It must be unimaginably powerful
  • It must be personal (implied by timelessness and immateriality)

The only candidates are unembodied minds or abstract objects (like numbers), but abstract objects do not stand in causal relation to anything. The number 7, for instance, has no effect on anything. The cause must be, therefore, an unembodied mind. This is implied by the origin of an effect with a beginning from a beginningless cause.

How else could a timeless cause give effect to a temporal beginning? If the cause were a mechanical effect of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without its effect. When the cause is given, the effect is given as well; they must exist together. The cause of water freezing is temperature below zero centigrade. If the temperate was always zero from eternity past, then any water existing would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze at any finite time in the past. If the cause is permanently present, the effect is permanently present as well.

In the case of the universe, how can the cause be timeless and permanent and the effects only begin a finite time ago?  The only way is for the cause to be personal, endowed with freedom of the will who could spontaneously create a new effect without any prior conditions. Thus, not only is there a transcendent cause, but a personal creator.

Those are the characteristics of God.

This is taken from a “talk” that Dr. William Lane Craig gave at Oxford University in England. You can follow the link to hear the entire presentation given in a creative way.

Is It Really Just Science?

Night Sky in November

What are the odds that there is life on other planets in the universe?

Carl Sagan and other smart thinkers in the 1960’s created quite a stir with their calculations and predictions of finding extra-terrestrial life in the universe. The subject has been the subject of many movies, television shows and books since then.

Of course, we have not found life in the years following those grand projections, not that five intervening decades of searching is very significant in the vast sea of time. Still, the prospect of finding extraterrestrial life in the universe seems no closer, maybe further off, than when Sagan spoke those words.

Should we be surprised? Is it really “just science”? Continue reading