What’s the matter with miracles in science?

I got this very popular question from Martin Rag:

I am 100% sure that most of the species were created “according to their kinds …” ( with a capability to adapt to a certain degree, if you will )

The main reason why I am so sure that species were created according to their kinds is this:

There are TOO MANY very unique species with TOO MANY very unique and sophisticated features to be some product of guided or unguided or whatever evolutionary process … (not to mention, that no biologist can explain the origin of most of these features … )

It is clear, that all these features were engineered from scratch ( to demonstrate engineering skills of our Creator )

Martin,

Let’s start by acknowledging that we have wide overlapping areas of agreement.

I agree the cosmos is divinely ordered. Spectacular beyond words.

I agree life is vastly more sophisticated than the feeble descriptions in any biology book.

I loathe the absurd, clownish oversimplifications of Neo-Darwinism.

I detest the dehumanizing, nihilistic, depressing “blind pitiless indifference” of materialism and scientism.

I abhor its arrogance and hubris.

I too am an engineer and recognize that many times biologists (especially demagogues like Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers) have zero career experience of arriving at a great design. We engineers know this in our bones.

They are willfully blind to the sheer elegance and ingenuity that is found in every life form at at every level. They make up stories of lucky RNA strands and Junk DNA and vestigial organs. Their descriptions of science are motivated by how dumb they believe mother nature is, not how ingenious she is.

So we have many similar frustrations.

I acknowledge that the octopus is so different from other species, that not only do some religious people think it’s a separate creation… some secular people say the octopus came from outer space!

And finally I confess that many of these questions cannot be settled any time soon via empirical evidence. Because we can’t re-run the tape of history over millions of years and watch it on a video monitor.

You could be right, the various species on earth could be the result of some unknown number of divine interventions. I can’t prove that’s wrong. Because even though I can produce some species, I can never produce them all. The arguments could go on and on forever.

Our conclusions depend on our philosophical commitments.

So rather than trying to fight you, I lay my cards on the table and explain why I PREFER a minimal-miracles account of pre-human history. Why, from a scientific perspective, this maximizes human discovery.

Reason #1: I was a 6-day creationist growing up. For decades I was assured that there was “no evidence whatsoever” for new species. Then I discovered 80 years of hybridization and symbiogenesis experiments in real time; and many other forms of organismal evolution. High speed evolution is not theory. It’s experimental fact. I chronicle this in generous detail in Evolution 2.0.

Reason #2: The origin of many cancers is a high speed symbiotic merger between cells. These turn out to be incredibly frequent. We will never treat cancer effectively without a detailed account of these evolutionary events.

I found from 4 years of organizing cancer conferences and funding cancer research and that the adaptive evolutionary capabilities of tumors are absolutely astounding. It is extremely dangerous to underestimate the capabilities of any evolutionary process. We already know cancer evolution is smarter than ANY doctor or biologist.

When we under-estimate the intelligence of cells (cancer and immune cells in particular), our hubris racks up a death toll.

Reason #3: I’ve voyaged deep down the Michael Levin rabbit hole, a vast world of high speed evolution. Xenobots (frog cells self-developing into autonomous organisms that are not frogs), Anthrobots (human cells self-developing into self-directed organisms that are not humans).

In a developing frog embryo, experimenters transfer the eye from the head to the tail. Then the tissues say “hey that’s an eye” and wire nervous system signals from the eye to the spinal cord. The brain adapts. The adult frog can see out of its butt!

When his team exposed planarian worms to barium, their heads exploded; but then new heads grew right back, barium resistant. The worm’s tissues developed a defense against barium in real time – with zero reason to believe this had ever occurred before in earth’s history. This is incredibly sophisticated.

How flippin’ intelligent are these cells, anyway?

What else can these cells do, that we don’t yet know about?

What if a built-in mechanism does exist for re-arranging the body plan of an animal, on command, when environmental conditions are hostile… and all the parts of the organism will automatically compensate, just like the tissues around that frog eye?

Reason #4: The Intelligent Design Creationist stands with arms folded and says to the experimental scientist, “You can’t figure that out. I know you can’t figure that out, because God did it. You’re never going to find an answer, so forget it.”

By definition the creationist is not even willing to do the work. They just finished saying they don’t think the work is worth doing.

So the scientist is stuck doing the hard work and defending himself against public criticism from the ID people (who are chanting “nya nya you can’t solve this”).

I say the scientist is more courageous. The scientist took the high road. The ID person pulled the easy lever.

Then… when the scientist does solve it, the ID person moves the goalposts and continues his criticisms unabated. Including: “Yeah, well you’re only doing it for the grant money.”

Rinse-repeat. I’ve witnessed the mudslinging for 20 years and I’m sick of it. I find it incredibly disingenuous and anti-science. And, dare I say, un-Christian. So do most professional scientists.

I believe God architected the universe for maximum discoverability, and the only truthful way to approach science is to assume that:

(1) the cosmos is divinely ordered, not an accident;

and

(2) when you have a question, an attainable answer exists.

Nature is not in competition with God.

We are to press known secondary causes as far as they will go in explanation of facts. We are not to resort to an unknown cause for explanation of phenomena until the power of known causes has been exhausted. If we cease to observe this rule there is an end to all science and of all sound sense.

-Congregational minister and Geologist George Frederick Wright (1876)

We have scarcely scratched the scratch on the surface of what will yet be discovered in science. This is why both evolution and origin of life research are valuable.

Nobody is more brave than a young OOL researcher who already knows how slow progress has been. This is why Joana Xavier started Origin Of Life Early Career Network (OOLEN).

Reason #5: My question for any proposed philosophical viewpoint in science is borrowed from Michael Levin. It is: “How does this view give us better experiments, ask us more interesting questions and help us do superior research?”

A good case study is when Newton’s calculations predicted planets would wander off course every now and then. Newton theorized that God must nudge them back into place.

Laplace showed Newton’s math was wrong. The result was a universe more elegant than Newton’s prior conception. This is a major lesson. Let’s not fail to learn it.

Reason #6: A God who can create all the species of earth from [let’s suppose] the extreme fine-tuning of the big bang… or by imbuing the cosmos with capacities of consciousness and cognition… that kind of God is a lot more impressive than a God who has to tinker with it every now and then. See the Newton story in #5 above.

Nothing demonstrates the engineering skills of the Creator more than an ecosystem that can evolve on its own without episodes of divine intervention. All the Creator has to do is speak and it carries out the operation.

Darwinists underestimate nature. Creationists underestimate God.

I’d like to leave you with a seemingly unrelated thought that I think may be 100% related after all:

Where do great inventions come from? Where does great music come from?

Tom Waits told how he’d argue with songs that arrived at inconvenient times, saying, “Can you not see that I’m driving? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother Leonard Cohen.”

The Greeks believed in the Muse.

Mozart said, “Whence and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them.”

J.K. Rowling wrote about the experience of Harry Potter “walking fully formed” into her head while she was on a train.

Nikola Tesla said, “My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”

What if, when adaptation is necessary, plans for organisms also arrive fully formed, and are simply executed by the cells and tissues? What if there is a “platonic database” that is “out there?”

It’s hardly a new idea. I think it’s an utterly reasonable idea. The fact that a great number of world class artists and achievers believe this is evidence all by itself.

It’s at least partially testable hypothesis, insofar as it proposes ultra-high speed evolution is possible and observable… even if we don’t know where the information comes from.

We can also form hypotheses about accessing that information at will in other ways. I explore some of those hypotheses here – “Ways to Win the Evolution 2.0 Prize”.

I don’t see how any of this is incompatible with God; if anything it’s more compatible.

“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” -Solomon. 1 Kings 3:9 (NIV)

~

Also read From “God Of The Gaps” to “Let’s Get This Thing Solved!”

Download The First 3 Chapters of Evolution 2.0 For Free, Here – https://evo2.org/evolution/

Where Did Life And The Genetic Code Come From? Can The Answer Build Superior AI? The #1 Mystery In Science Now Has A $10 Million Prize. Learn More About It, Here – https://www.herox.com/evolution2.0

4 Responses

  1. Johan Nel says:

    I am in complete agreement with you, except about the term creationist. I know that is meant by the name calling “creationist” , the same as with “evolutionist”. However to me it is just adding “ist” the a verb and noun and used tit to put a person in a box. I belief in a Creator, I belief that life has an evolutionary history, that the universe has an evolutionary history, just as all things produce, made, brought in existence, created by humans and all thing designed by humans , have an evolutionary history. Therefore I do not mind being refer to as an creationist and or an evolutionist, because I thing I fit in both b Name calling is an easy and cheap way to try and win favor during debates.

    • John,

      By your definition, then, I am a creationist. One of the goals of my book Evolution 2.0 was “to convince evolutionists that creation is true and to convince creationists that evolution is true.”

      Unfortunately it is not possible to talk about large groups of people and their beliefs without using labels. The word creationist in our modern discourse has a very particular meaning which I am respecting and using here. Reference Institute of Creation Research and Answers In Genesis.

      It is not my intention to insult anyone applies a broader definition of creationist to themselves.

      The same can be said of intelligent design. By some definitions, I am absolutely an advocate of intelligent design. But not that particular flavor that is generally advocated by the Discovery Institute today.

      Here is a footnote from the introduction of Evolution 2.0:

      Intelligent Design has been accused of being nothing more than “Creationism in a cheap suit.” But it’s important to note that for many ID advocates, God has little to do with ID. There’s an important distinction between IDers who believe in episodes of divine intervention and IDers who, often apart from religion, observe that mindless, materialistic processes simply fail to explain or adequately describe many aspects of living things (see Discovery Institute at http:// discovery.org/about, accessed January 13, 2015). They may not have an answer for the origin of the design, and they may or may not think it’s divine, but to them the question is secondary to the task of science itself. ID asserts that the same principles of design employed in architecture, computer science, manufacturing, and music are valid and necessary in science and biology. One need not care about theological questions to recognize that Darwinism fails to answer science questions as well. In the pages to come I’ll describe why, from an engineering and technology point of view, ID raises questions we cannot afford to ignore—because they are not only scientifically sound but commercially valuable.

      The position I take tends to alienate both sides, to be frank, but that is only because some people are not willing to consider that the opposing side has valuable talking points.

  2. As an avid follower of Science and God, I have read and enjoyed Evolution 2.0. Hats off, Perry, you did a great job. I would be quite interesting if it turns out that cells have a self-organization component to them. I still think, Perry, that some of your early work on DNA being a language may point to the hand of God needed in creation. Language, speaking and communication are uniquely associated with ‘beings’ and, when we look at the Biblical creation accounts, speaking life into existence is the process described. But, like you say, we cannot re-run history to find out what occurred and how it occurred. I do believe we WILL know one day, and on that DAY, I want to hear that I did well with the knowledge and information that I had. 🙂

    • Yes Juanita, exactly!

      I believe there is a deep connection between the language of DNA and the Logos described in the book of John, and I don’t think DNA is the bottom of the swamp. I think there are even deeper principles that exist in the universe that we can discover.

      Really glad you’re along for the journey.

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