S. Joshua Swamidass is an associate professor in the Laboratory and Genomic Medicine Division at Washington University in St Louis. His research uses computational methods solve problems at the intersection of medicine, chemistry and biology.
Joshua and I have met at several conferences and had long discussions. He, like myself, is very interested in ending the war Read more »
Steve Huffey is a residential real estate investor, specializing in multi-units. His interest in the ‘crossroad of science and faith’ has led him to focus on philology of the era during which transition from Egyptian hieroglyphs to Proto-Sinaitic script and associated Paleo-Hebrew took place. Better clarity of this era and scripts give added meaning to Biblical creation texts.
Guest Post by Steve Huffey
The last sentence of “On the Origin of Species ….” reveals a struggle.
In his book, “On the Origin of Species ….”, Darwin wrote “Creator” nine times, “God” once, and quoted a statement including “God”; all put in a positive light. But in the topic and public debate of evolution, the design of God has suffered loss. Design was honored by Darwin, but dishonored by Read more »
Today Perry reveals his true intentions with the Evolution 2.0 initiative. He tells us that his goal is NOT to prove God exists. Rather it’s to heal the rift between science and religion. To create a “Demilitarized Zone” where people from “both sides” lay their weapons down and work together to find the truth about the origins of life.
As you’ll discover in this video and previous installments, science and religion ARE NOT at odds with each other. In fact, they’re symbiotic. Unable to be separated.
You don’t want to miss a second of this, as towards the end of the video, Perry reveals how he reads and interprets Genesis and the creation of our universe. So dive in and get ready to feel a range of emotions.
In this exciting video Perry reveals how evolutionary mechanisms of gradual and sudden change work.
Do you remember one of the original computer operating systems called “DOS”? If not, think of the most primitive operating system imaginable (outside of punch cards) Got it in your head? Good.
Now think of Windows 10. Think of Outlook. Think of the touch screen. The Mouse. The Keyboard. The Speakers. The Microphone. Everything.
Ok, now imagine that DOS evolved into Windows 10. All on it’s own…
If that happened, would you be impressed? I hope so! Well that’s what’s happening every single day within OUR bodies in our cells. Here’s what’s crazy. We KNOW that this is happening. But truthfully, we don’t know how these cells know what to do.
Later in the video Perry tells the story how he got into a fight with the most infamous group of atheists in internet history. The Infidels. In fact, the fight took 7 years and ran for over 1000 posts. It was the LONGEST running, most viewed post in the Infidels history. After successfully defending his arguments for years, Perry decided to lay down the gauntlet…
“Prove me wrong and I’ll give you $10,000.” He laid the terms and prepared for the unexpected. He was met with… crickets.
Today, that $10,000 bet has transformed into the $5 Million Evolution 2.0 prize and Perry reveals the exact spec that we need to decipher to win the prize.
Most believe that evolution and intelligent design are independent thoughts, unable to merge without a catastrophe. In this video, Perry reveals how the two not only co-habitate but are interconnected. Evolution does happen, every single day…
But it’s not random. In fact, from everything we know, it follows a set of rules that we’re put in place by someone… or something. With the studies of renowned scientist, Barbara McClintock, Perry reveals the bottom of the swamp and how this actually happens.
Lastly, Perry talks about the needless war between Christians and Evolutionists and pokes gaping holes in the story of Noah’s ark from the perspective of a Young Earth Creationist and why evolution actually MUST play a role in Biblical history, if the Bible is in to be considered a reliable source of history.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
“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.