In the first part of our series we looked at a definition of science and arguments from science. If you haven’t read it yet, please look at it here.
We continue looking at what we can learn from scientific investigations about the origin of life.
We began this series with a question –
What is “science” and what are “arguments from science”?
We also looked at whether science can be “settled.”
Something I hear often from atheists and agnostics is the phrase “settled science.” Does Darwinian evolution meet the definition of knowledge that stays the same and is not likely to change or move?
Based on the 150+ years of debate about the topic, I would say the answer to that is an overwhelming NO. Darwinian evolution is NOT settled science. There are many scientists who would say Darwinian evolution is not even good science, but it is certainly not settled knowledge.
It’s important that we look at all sides of any argument concerning knowledge, especially about something as important as the origin of life. Let’s look at four sides of the argument.
On one hand we have atheist/agnostic Darwinian evolution scientists –
“Evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.” Live Science, What is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Ker Than, February 26, 2018
We have theist Darwinian evolution scientists –
“Opponents of the science of evolution sometimes claim that evolution is a ‘theory in crisis.’ This claim has had traction among regular church goers, 39% of whom believe that scientists do not generally agree that humans have evolved over time. When respondents are restricted to white Evangelicals, that number goes up to 49%. Such beliefs do not reflect what scientists actually think. When scientists themselves were asked the same question, 99% agreed that humans have evolved over time. There is very little debate among scientists about the central idea of evolutionary theory: common ancestry (including human beings). It is the settled backdrop against which biological research takes place.” BioLogos, Is evolution a ‘theory in crisis’?
We have Creationist scientists –
“Belief in evolution is a remarkable phenomenon. It is a belief passionately defended by the scientific establishment, despite the lack of any observable scientific evidence for macroevolution (that is, evolution from one distinct kind of organism into another). This odd situation is briefly documented here by citing recent statements from leading evolutionists admitting their lack of proof. These statements inadvertently show that evolution on any significant scale does not occur at present, and never happened in the past, and could never happen at all.” ICR, The Scientific Case Against Evolution, Dr. Henry Morris
And we have Intelligent Design scientists –
“Intelligent design (ID) is a scientific theory that employs the methods commonly used by other historical sciences to conclude that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. ID theorists argue that design can be inferred by studying the informational properties of natural objects to determine if they bear the type of information that in our experience arise from an intelligent cause. The form of information which we observe is produced by intelligent action, and thus reliably indicates design, is generally called ‘specified complexity’ or ‘complex and specified information’ (CSI). An object or event is complex if it is unlikely, and specified if it matches some independent pattern. Contrary to what many people suppose, the debate over intelligent design is much broader than the debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution. That’s because much of the scientific evidence for intelligent design comes from areas that Darwin’s theory doesn’t even address. In fact, the evidence for intelligent design comes from three main areas: Physics and Cosmology, the Origin of Life, and the Development of Biological Complexity.” Discovery Institute, Frequently Asked Questions
Four different responses to the same base of scientific research findings from the last century and a half. Who do we believe?
You may have already chosen sides and that’s okay. I had chosen the side of Darwinian evolution as an atheist, yet was convinced by evidence to switch sides. The important thing is to be a student of scientific investigation and follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Beginning or Bang
The first verse of the Bible reads – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That seems pretty straightforward. A supreme being known as God “created” the “heavens and the earth” in the “beginning.” Jews and Christians have believed that Bible doctrine (teaching) for thousands of years, long before the development of modern science.
What has the view been outside of Judaism and Christianity about the origin of the universe? Did it have a beginning or has it always been?
Most ancient religions around the world had creation stories that involved their gods and goddesses. Those stories were shared from generation to generation for thousands of years. However, the scientific era began to challenge that idea.
When did the modern scientific era begin? Here’s one view of it from a professor of the History of Science –
“If the history of science is to make any sense whatsoever, it is necessary to deal with the past on its own terms, and the fact is that for most of the history of science natural philosophers appealed to causes that would be summarily rejected by modern scientists. Spiritual and divine forces were accepted as both real and necessary until the end of the 18th century and, in areas such as biology, deep into the 19th century as well.” Encyclopedia Britannica, History of Science, L. Pearce Williams, Cornell University
Some historians point to the publication of On The Fabric Of The Human Body by Andreas Vasalius in 1543 AD as being the first great work of modern science. Nicolas Copernicus published On The Revolution Of Celestial Bodies that same year. Other early works of modern science continued to grow toward the end of the 16th century into the 17th century including the writings of Giordano Bruno, Francois Viets, Galileo Galilei, John Napier, Johannes Kepler, Sir Francis Bacon, Giovanni Borelli and Isaac Newton. King Charles II officially recognized the Royal Society of London in 1662. The Society brought together leading thinkers in an effort to advance scientific investigation.
Most of the early scientists believed the universe did not have a beginning and had always existed. However, that has changed during the past hundred years. The 20th century birthed many ideas about the question of origin. Leading scientists in the universe origin quest have included Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Georges Lemaitre, Alexander Friedman, Vesto Slipher, Fred Hoyle, Thomas Gold, Max Planck, Hermann Bondi, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. Much of their investigation led to an idea that a majority of evolutionary scientists have since embraced – the Big Bang.
The Big Bang
“One of the best known theories in cosmology is the Big Bang. This is the idea that our universe started out much hotter and denser than it is now and has been expanding since then. This theory is based on observations of our universe, among which are:
- External galaxies are receding in such a way that their recessional speeds are proportional to the distance they are away from us (this is called Hubble’s Law after Edwin Hubble who first noticed it). This observation is explained well by a uniform expansion of the universe. If the universe is expanding, it must have started out very small some time far in the past. It is this point which has been called the beginning of the universe or the ‘Big Bang.’
- When we observe the night sky we see an excess of radiation which is called the CMB radiation (cosmic microwave background radiation). It is a perfect black body with a temperature of 3 Kelvin. Taken with the expansion of the universe, this radiation says that the universe must have been much hotter in the past and also opaque to radiation. It turns out that the CMB radiation fits in perfectly with being from the first photons to escape after the universe became transparent. The universe became transparent for the first time when atoms first formed (in an event known inexplicably as recombination).” Cosmology & the Big Bang, Ask An Astronomer, Cornell University
This raises an interesting question: what was there before the Big Bang?
“We can define the universe as everything there is, so in that case there is nothing outside of it. We also say that space and time both started at the Big Bang and therefore there was nothing before it.
Another definition for the universe is the observable universe – which is the part of it that we can technically see. We cannot know what is outside of that (since we can’t observe it), but we think that physics works the same everywhere and so we think that it should be very similar to the observable universe. We actually think that the universe might be infinite in extent, and so goes on forever, even though we can only see a finite part of it.” Karen Masters, Associate Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, UK, Associate Professor in Astronomy and Physics at Haverford College, Pennsylvania.
Saying that space and time both started at the Big Bang and there was nothing before it raises some questions for scientists. How can something come from nothing? Some evolutionists see the problem and are honest in their discussion about it. Let’s hear first from an agnostic scientist about his views concerning Darwinian evolution –
“We can assume that in a relatively short time — perhaps within 100 million years — the one celled organism evolved into a colony of cells. With the further passage of time, groups of cells within those colonies assumed specialized functions of food-gathering, digestion, the structural features of an outer skin, and so on; thus began the stage of evolution leading to the complex, many-celled creatures which dominate life today.
The fossil record contains no trace of these preliminary stages in the development of many-celled organisms. The first clues to the existence of relatively advanced forms of life consist of a few barely discernible tracks, presumably made in the primeval slime by soft, wriggling wormlike animals. These are found in rocks about one billion years old. These meager remains are the earliest traces of many-celled animal life on the planet.” Red Giants and White Dwarfs : Man’s Descent from the Stars, Robert Jastrow (1971), p. 249.
Jastrow, who was an astronomer, planetary physicist and NASA scientist, wrote this in his book God and the Astronomers 40 years ago –
“When a scientist writes about God, his colleagues assume he is either over the hill or going bonkers. In my case it should be understood from the start that I am an agnostic in religious matters. My views on this question are close to those of Darwin, who wrote, ‘My theology is a simple muddle. I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I see no evidence of beneficent design in the details.’
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
And this in The Enchanted Loom a few years later –
“Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the Biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.
Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks: What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe? And science cannot answer these questions, because, according to the astronomers, in the first moments of its existence the Universe was compressed to an extraordinary degree, and consumed by the heat of a fire beyond human imagination. The shock of that instant must have destroyed every particle of evidence that could have yielded a clue to the cause of the great explosion.
There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions [of scientists to evidence that the universe had a sudden beginning]. They come from the heart whereas you would expect the judgments to come from the brain. Why? I think part of the answer is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money. There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the Universe. Every event can be explained in a rational way as the product of some previous event; every effect must have its cause, there is no First Cause. … This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized.” The Enchanted Loom, Robert Jastrow, 1981
We now have many theories about the universe in which we live. The fact that there are so many scientists talking about so many different theories about the origin of the universe reminds us that this is not settled science –
- Creation of Universe by God
- Big Bang Theory
- Steady-State Universe Theory
- Plasma Universe
- Eternal Universe Theory
- Multiverse Theory
- Eternal Inflation Theory
- Cyclic Theory (Oscillating Universe)
- String Theory (also Superstring, M-theory)
- Flat Hologram Theory
- Digital Simulation Theory
The scientists who support these various theories believe that “science” is on their side. So, which is it? Which scientific theory about the universe is correct?
We will look deeper into scientific theories about the origin of the universe in the next part of our series.
© Faith and Self Defense 2019