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A Quest To The Bottom Of The Proverbial “Evolutionary Swamp…”

Perry continues his story as he moves from his hometown into the big city of Chicago and begins attending one of the largest churches in the country, Willow Creek. Being a stark contrast from his fundamentalist upbringing, his new journey further cements his ability to question what he’s been told about Young Earth Creationism and the basics of evolution.

 

During the next phase of his life, his world is wrecked when is brother, Brian, a lifelong Christian with a masters in theology and a pastor, turns borderline atheist because of the overwhelming and convincing evidence that God doesn’t actually exist.

 

What happens next sends Perry on a quest hunting for answers amidst a sea of people who are so concrete in their beliefs, logic doesn’t apply. During this new quest to get to the bottom of the proverbial “evolutionary swamp” Perry talks about how his relationship with Brian unfolds and how he and his wife, Laura kept peace in the home, in spite of the barrage of questions.

 

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From Young Earth Creation To Evolution 2.0 – The Story

 

Growing up in a Rule Following, Fundamentalist, Exact World

 

Perry’s roots began in a conservative church in Lincoln, Nebraska where his dad became the pastor of a church led by a man named Mr G when he was 10 years old. His dad’s pastoral work was perfectly aligned with the long lineage of church work within his family. From his:

 

  • Grandfather: Baptist Minister
  • Uncle: Missionary and worked for Trans World Radio
  • Uncle: Worked for Christian Radio
  • Brother in Law: Ran Children’s Relief International
  • And the list goes on…

 

Only two years after joining Mr G’s church a medical crisis struck the family creating a year and a half wreckage between the family and the church. Perry’s mom, Betty went Bipolar.

 

This disease led to constant fighting at home. While the churches questioning of his mother’s rebellion and anger put Perry’s dad, Bob into a contradicting battle of trying to be a pastor while having control over his home.

 

Finally his dad took his mom to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar and mild schizophrenia then prescribing her an antipsychotic drug. Luckily once his mom went on the drug she was more level headed and immediately started acting differently.

 

Unfortunately the Board of Elders at the church were not in alignment with psychiatry work. In Mr G’s Church Psychiatry was viewed as a secular religion and would not be tolerated…

 

Upon learning that Bob had taken Betty to a Psychiatrist the Board of Elders came to the Marshall house and explained that because Perry’s mom was out of control and she had gone to a psychiatrist, Bob would need to step down from his pastoral role into an administrative position. All the while, when Perry’s sister brought up the unthinkable things that Mr. G’s daughter was doing at nighttime, He responded…Robin we are here to talk about your family tonight and not mine”. As if that was not bad enough Mr. G announced to the entire congregation that due to family problems Bob would be stepping down from his role as pastor.

 

While Bob had to step down, Betty’s condition got much better and it was obvious that the issues were a medical problem and not some spiritual rebellion.

 

Following this event Perry’s relatives were very vocal that they had gotten screwed and needed to get out of the church. Yet Bob believed that he needed to vindicate himself. It was extremely uncommon to challenge Mr. G but Perry’s dad did. He told Mr. G that he made a wrong judgement. That this was a medical issue and that Mr. G owed his wife, family and himself an apology. Mr. G relented and Bob got his job back. However even though Mr. G wrote a letter of apology to his mother she was still terrified of this man the rest of her life.

 

Havoc strikes again…

 

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A month after his reinstatement Perry’s dad was diagnosed with cancer. He had his kidney removed and the Cancer was gone and then BOOM it came back a year and a half later. This time the church was extremely supportive of science and His dad’s cancer treatments.

  • People stepped up and paid for plane tickets
  • Bought food
  • Helped with childcare

 

And… 3 months before his father’s death when it became clear the treatments were not working the church who knew it was a dream of Bob’s to visit California held a fundraiser and raised $10k for Perry’s family. His family celebrated for 5 weeks hitting every state between NE and CA, also visiting Hawaii and Alaska.

 

Post his father’s death a successful entrepreneur in the church would call his mother every month to ask how much short she was for the month and he would write her a check for what Perry believes was about $800 a month. This happened for a couple of years.

 

Not long after his father’s death it was war on the counseling department with Mr G. He believed that psychology was a secular religion. Mr. G fired the head of counseling and the entire church split. At 19 years old Perry went to Mr. G. He made the connection that Mr. G’s church had a radio and TV ministry but St. Paul Church did not. However Mr. G said that since St. Paul Church doesn’t have Psychology that they will not either. When Perry questioned this contradiction, Mr. G’s response was, “I am the boss and I don’t like Psychology”.

 

Drawing 19 Year Old Conclusions…

 

At 19 Perry went home and realized that Mr. G was trying to be a biblical purist while Verge, the counselor, wanted to filter psychology through the bible and Christian beliefs. Perry knew if he only worked within the framework of the Bible he would never question his own assumptions. Mr. G’s church was a very exacting and abusive church but if you were in good graces then everyone took care of you. However, as Perry thought about it he knew that something was not right with this exactest world. He could see that the whole belief system was very brittle. If you started messing with one assumption the whole thing fell apart and couldn’t work.

 

The Contradiction Between Science and Time

 

Around the age of 14, John Whitcomb a Young Earth Creationist came to Perry’s church every night for a week to speak advocating a flood geology (an attempt to reconcile geological features of the earth in accordance to a literal belief of the flood in Genesis 6-8). Coming from a background where it took 5 years to get through the book of Romans, Perry thought it was better than the norm and bought into this belief system. It worked since Perry was a science geek all his life and John Whitcomb brought a new perspective that incorporated science. He just wasn’t sure how it all fit together.

 

Later life threw contradiction…

 

During Perry’s early working years he was challenged by a co-worker who said…”you are not one of those people who is going to tell me the earth is 6,000 years old are you, because I will not accept that”. In that moment Perry realized he was not equipped to answer his co-workers question. That question led him to the sciences…As an electrical engineer Perry knew how intrinsically bound up the speed of light is with all of physics. It’s a constant.

 

E = MC^2 (Energy = Matter x (the Speed of Light)^2)

 

It is a statement about the relationship between matter and energy…It tells you how much energy is for how much matter and you combine that with conservation of matter and energy. It also speaks to a fixed amount of energy in the universe. There are all sorts of physics and engineering problems where you take those two things and figure stuff out. You figure how much energy came out of a chemical reaction and the thing is, it’s all right. It is all true. Physics itself fits beautifully like a clock with gears that all work perfectly. So Perry knew because of the precision of the Laws of Physics and from measuring the speed of light in a lab in college that even things like a USB cable are measured based on the speed of light. With all these things he knew that the earth must be old. If one said that the earth was made to look old but it was not actually old that would lead to the fact that astrology is an illusion.

 

Later on Perry encountered a man named Hugh Ross, an Old Earth Creationist, Astronomer, and Astrophysicist who made perfect sense of all this stuff. Hugh explained the Big Bang Theory and this amazing fine tuning of the universe.

 

He learned that if the expansion rate of the Big Bang Theory had been less or more to the 120th decimal place you wouldn’t even have stars because they would have never formed. They would have sprayed out like a missle and never formed matter. Or it would have all collapsed on itself.

 

Through Perry’s continued learning and experiences he also discovered cosmology and astrology and it didn’t take him long to realize the earth was old! The earth’s age is a period of time and not 24 hours. Perry concluded that the proposition that the earth was young had no support as far as he was concerned.

 

Running Towards Ambiguity

 

Prior to Perry’s discovery that the earth was old he had a beloved professor in college who taught English Literature named Dr. Knoll. He made a correlation Perry’s Junior year that strengthened the transition he would make later on in life from Young Earth Creationist to his new beliefs. Dr. Knoll explained how progression is going from exact answers to dealing with ambiguity. He explained how a lot of kids will start out with science and math and then the older they get the more comfortable they become with ambiguity. As you grow up you move from an exact answer world to an ambiguous world. He said…

 

…”If you want to spend the rest of your life searching for exact answers you can go to Mr. G’s church.”

 

This statement shook Perry to the core and he spent the entire afternoon walking around in a daze. Finally realizing that he didn’t go to that church anymore and that he had realized that the exact answers had become so excruciating that they were driving people out. At 19, he had realized that Mr. G’s church was turning into a tyranny and the people were unable to question anything. What Perry realized is that if you take any field and filter it through the bible…every time you will learn more about the bible and more about that other field; psychology, science, etc..each shed immense light on each other. It’s like if you have never been out of America you don’t know what it’s like to be an American.

Perry believes the bible is a huge story of ambiguity. Stories of situations where there is almost no perfect way to handle things. Dr. Knoll was telling him that he was growing up and he was headed in the right direction….Dr. Knoll was the confirmation that allowed Perry to really start processing what had happened at Mr. G’s church after he moved to Chicago at the age of 23 and started attending Willow Creek Church. Willow Creek was such an extreme difference from Mr. G that it was like a sex change operation.

 

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Creation Research Society Reviews “Evolution 2.0” by Perry Marshall

The Creation Research Society reviewed Evolution 2.0 shortly after it came out, then recently published a second, more extended review (11 pages, click to see the entire article). The editor adds: “This greatly extended review of an important book is warranted.”

Clearly they do not like the book, though they do indicate that had I trod a somewhat different path and come to conclusions more similar to their own, I would be warmly embraced. Thankfully their tone is very civil.

The review deserves a response. This video does so, while adding a great deal of very important back story which had never been told. Lengthy but worth the listen:

Watch the video and post your comments below!

You can listen to a highly abridged FREE audiobook of Evolution 2.0 by subscribing to the Evolution 2.0 Podcast; the featured chapters are in the podcast feed.

Click here to download this episode’s transcription.

Is There Purpose in Biology? Denis Alexander book Review

The question of purpose in nature has been hotly debated for a very long time. In his new book Is There Purpose in Biology?: The Cost of Existence and the God of Love, Denis Alexander explores the very long history with a fine toothed comb, then brings us up to date with recent biochemistry.

Dr. Denis Alexander is the Director Emeritus of the Faraday Institute

Richard Dawkins famously said, “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” This comfortably fits the narrative of many people, especially atheists, but Dr. Alexander employs a kaleidoscope of information and sources to show us that the opposite is much more likely to be true.

His coverage of the topic is almost encyclopedic. He’s even sensitive to how fashions in Biblical interpretation and trends in philosophy and authority in antiquity shaped the way ancient people viewed science. He makes a case for the reformation changing the way people thought about science and knowledge.

For about 100 years now it’s been quite unfashionable for biologists to claim there is purpose in nature but this is clearly starting to change. JBS Haldane said, “Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.” This statement is a smoking gun, because after all, is not a heart’s purpose to pump blood, that lungs are to breathe, noses are to smell?

The standard secular account of evolution is that natural selection causes the *appearance* of purpose to emerge when in fact there is none. But there is far more to the story than that.

Alexander goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks and explores this idea very thoroughly. He begins with history, then shifts to science, then considers theological implications. He proves a huge range of sources. He canvases ancient literature, evolutionary biology, non-random patterns in gene mutations, the optimality of the genetic code, convergence (re-appearance of similar or identical structures in far-flung parts of the tree of life), chance and statistics, biochemistry, the regularity of the laws of nature, and the capacity of nature to “take care of itself” – to self-regulate and self create.

He doesn’t try to force the reader to a conclusion and he’s not preachy. He allows you to think for yourself.

But he does make a pretty firm case that the indications fall far more in favor of “yes there is purpose in nature” vs. “no there is not.”

If I have a gripe about the book it’s exemplified in the following statement:

“The most commonly used meaning [of the word “random”] simply refers to the fact that genetic variation comes into the genome without the good or the ill of the organism in view. When you think about it, this is a rather banal and obvious definition. How could it be otherwise?”

I believe it is otherwise. We have mounting evidence that evolutionary changes, while by no means optimal 100% of the time, that organism re-engineer their own DNA in ways that are appropriate to the specific problems they are facing. Barbara McClintock discovered this in the 1940s and her findings were roundly rejected by her peers. But then she won the Nobel Prize in 1983. Her corn plants repaired specific areas of damage in order to reproduce.

Her Nobel Prize paper was called “The significance of responses of the genome to challenge.” She explored novel responses cells would make to completely novel situations, and compared them to routine situations in which cells produced something resembling error codes and predictable responses.

Much work along this line has been done since. For example at the university of Redding, scientists deleted the genes for the flagellum and when they came back after the weekend they found that an organism had repaired said genes and grown a flagellum.

So while making an outstanding case for purpose in biology, Alexander could have gone a bit farther. He gives too much credit to Neo-Darwinian ideas about evolution, and not enough to what is commonly called “The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis” which tends to acknowledge purposeful adaptations much more readily.

But this is just a minor criticism. It’s definitely a five-star book. It joins a chorus of related books like “Purpose And Desire” by J. Scott Turner.

Turning his attention to theodicy and theology, he says “the Bible contains no concept of “nature” as referring to the natural world – the word is nowhere to be found.”

Nor does the original Hebrew have a word for “Supernatural.” And while in English such terms are helpful, they potentially dissect and segment in a detrimental way.

A topic that he leaves alone is the subject of miracles. I would have appreciated an acknowledgement of a separation between natural phenomena and miraculous healings. But this would have made the book quite a bit longer and it’s understandable that he didn’t take it on. He would only tackle a subject like this if he could it thoroughly.

I liked this quote, which he pulled from his extensive reading:

“If single acts would evince design, how much more a vast universe, that by inherent laws gradually builded itself and then created its own plants and animals, a universe so adjusted that it left by the way the poorest things, and steadily wrought toward more complex, ingenious, and beautiful results! Who designed this mighty machine, created matter, gave it its laws, and impressed upon it that tendency which has brought forth almost infinite results on the globe, and wrought them into a perfect system? Design by wholesale is grander than design by retail.” (Mathisen, 2006, p. 386)

And finally:

“When Christ took on human nature, the DNA that made him the son of Mary may have linked him to a more ancient heritage stretching far beyond Adam to the shallows of unimaginably ancient seas. And so, in the Incarnation, it would not have been just human nature that was joined to the Divine, but in a less direct but no less real sense all those myriad organisms that had unknowingly over the eons shaped the way for the coming of the human.”

I strongly recommend this book – I highlighted many sections.

Keep an eye peeled because Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio show and podcast will soon feature a conversation between me and Dr. Alexander.

Information Theory and the Trinity

A friend of mine commented that the Trinity was a made-up crazy idea concocted by the church in the early middle ages. I say the Trinity is reflected in the very nature of information.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote this fascinating Facebook post about information theory:

Take a good look at this diagram and study it, because I came to the same exact conclusion years ago. The communication system itself is one of the most vital fractal patterns in the universe.

Even though this structure is the foundation of Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA in 1953, the biologists have mostly misunderstood it, many people in many disciplines have misunderstood it because although you can use reductionist analysis to study it (it’s absolutely central to Electrical Engineering) you cannot use reductionist physics to explain its origin.

Here’s what I mean by that. A communication system is an [encoder] -> [a message] -> [and a decoder].

Here’s the diagram we use for the Evolution 2.0 Prize:

You text me on your phone. Your phone encodes your words into a message and sends them over a communication channel, and my phone decodes your message. The amount of information is the number of bits it takes to encode the message. The message can be degraded by noise.

For the guy who builds TVs, cell phones, etc., his #1 job is to combat the noise.

Everything I just said is simple reductionism. It is very powerful. What you cannot reduce to formula though (by definition) is the origin of the message itself, the “surprise” and originality of that message, the creation which requires will and intent. Its origin is by definition not algorithmic.

The heart of this question is nothing less than the mystery of consciousness – which no one to date has ever even been able to fully define, let alone explain.

All communication systems that we know the origin of are designed. This suggests that consciousness comes first in the universe. Consciousness first, matter second. Not the other way around. (If anyone solves the Evolution 2.0 Prize, and I hope they do, they’ll solve it by starting with consciousness and working from there. My 2 cents.)

You cannot create messages or communication by blind material processes, so far as anyone knows thus far. Information always starts with consciousness. Which is the thesis of my Evolution 2.0 book.

All of this is pretty simple stuff. It’s not rocket science. But it is kind of trippy, and it’s fractal. So people struggle to wrap their heads around it.

Well if you can wrap your head around it, you can see how, as Taleb says, it has implications for dozens of fields of study, including core philosophical questions like consciousness and free will. I recommend the book “In the Beginning was Information” by Werner Gitt because it offers the best philosophical treatment of this subject I’ve ever seen.

Information theory shows that words and language are the basis of all creative acts. They are also the basis of all replication and all memes. So having understood this I was doubly struck by John’s opening statement in his gospel:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

“Word” is the Greek word Logos. It suggests the Evolution 2.0 Prize, an award for the mystery of how chemicals produced code, is a search for the original Logos in the physical world.

People have been debating the Trinity question since the beginning of the first century, and in fact longer than that, because in Genesis God says “Let US make man in OUR image.”

God is plural. The prophets and writers are emphatic about this.

This question – more a question than answers per se – is intrinsic to the Old and New Testaments. No matter what you say about it, or how you might politically frame it, the question itself is always staring you in the face no matter what you do. It’s only an issue of how various people have tried to answer it.

In John 14 Jesus says “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Knowing that the Holy Spirit is the teacher and explainer of the WORD, I had an epiphany:

God the Father is analogous to encoder.

The Father is originator, the original intent; all mysteries are hidden in Him.

The Son is the expression of God, the WORD, the communication and expression of the intent.

The Spirit is the understanding of God, the decoding of the WORD and the effective communication of that intent.

Which means that on earth, all successful communication is a reflection of the nature of God: An idea, which is then expressed and communicated, then finally understood. All successful communication is a fractal expression of the nature of God.

This is the definition of love. Love is the desire for complete communication and complete knowing. Without degradation and without shame. The only way that is can ever be possible to say “GOD IS LOVE” (as in God=Love, an equivalency statement, not just a metaphor) is if God is plural; and if the origination, expression and understanding of God is in perfect, lossless agreement. No entropy.

So God, stated in terms that humans can understand, is three persons who are in total and absolute agreement. Total harmony. That is what it means to say “GOD IS LOVE.” This statement cannot be true unless there is some kind of Trinity.

It cannot be true in Islam, for example, because Islam dogmatically insists that God is absolutely one, that there is no plurality with God, and that God has no son.

And, as you know, Allah is not exactly depicted as love. Not normally anyway.

Any Muslim who describes Allah=love has borrowed this idea from Judaism or Christianity. Allah in the Koran is distant and inscrutable.

So circling back to the beginning of this, every instance of successful communication is an expression of the nature of God – whether it is lovers melding together in harmony or merely your cell phone successfully receiving a text message.

It suggests that an ultimate evolution is harmony and communication between all things.

It’s because the thing that harmonizes the most people has unbreakable power. Which is true because…. God is love.

Genetic Algorithms & the 1-Star Review

Do modern Genetic Algorithms prove Darwinian evolution?An Amazon reviewer named L. Sojo posted this scathing critique:

“Pay the Prize”

The author writes: …then why don’t engineers use Darwinian evolution to design cars or write software? … I am offering an award to the first person who can discover a process by which nonliving thins can create code.

The answer is: that person already exists, his name is John Koza and his process is called “genetic programming”, which is used to design engines, pictures, music, computer code, etc by itself. You can learn buying the John Koza books here in Amazon. So, the author can pay the prize.

The author is missing the truth when he calls these developments “curiosities “. The truth is that they are used in many industries. By rejecting the already known, the whole argument of the book of collapse as a building of cards.

By trying to take advantage of the ignorance of both engineers and scientists of genetic programming, he only manages to show his own or even worse, his bad intentions, improper in a true scientist.

ANSWER:

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