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Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

   A worldview must be able to withstand the rigors of reality. It must match up with truth. If there is no absolute truth, then there is no basis for purpose, moral code, love, or rational thought.

         I believe literally what the Bible says about our origin- created in six literal days approximately 6000 years ago, as separate and fully formed kinds of plants, animals, and humans. This view, which simply takes God at His word, leaves no room for evolution between kinds of organisms, so called macro-evolution. How should a Bible believing individual respond to the claims of evolution? Does evidence overturn the plain reading of Scripture?

         In an online video, “The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation”, the presenters describe what they believe to be an airtight example of modern evolution: “Thanks to Nachman [the researcher],” says the narrator, “Science has an example of evolution clear in every detail.” Michael Nachman has studied pocket mice on the lava beds of Southeast New Mexico. Based on his population field studies and laboratory DNA studies, Nachman believes that a combination of mutation and natural selection has resulted in the pocket mouse being “evolved to be dark like the rock.” He says, “When a black mouse appears in a white population of mice, that is usually going to be due to a new mutation, and those are random and rare events.” He concludes that studies of the mice at other lavabeds show that “the genetic changes that made the mice black were different in each case. What’s amazing to me is how similar the black mice are…completely different genes. The narrator concludes, “The rock pocket mice show us that evolution can and does repeat itself and why evolutionary change is never ending.”

         But not so fast! First of all, before and after this event they are still pocket mice. Secondly, Nachman assumes that the genes for black fur arose by random mutation. But as Carl Wieland points out in an article about the peppered moths of England:

“Actually, even as it stands, the textbook story demonstrates nothing more than gene frequencies shifting back and forth, by natural selection, within one created kind. It offers nothing which, even given millions of years, could add the sort of complex design information needed for ameba-to-man evolution. Even L. Harrison Matthews, a biologist so distinguished he was asked to write the foreword for the 1971 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, said therein that the peppered moth example showed natural selection, but not ‘evolution in action.’”

         Thirdly, a very simplistic understanding of genetics results in only one possible conclusion for how multiple gene variations result in black fur. Given the relatively recent understanding of epigenetics, the better explanation lies in shifts within the expression of genes already resident within the mice. As Marc Ambler says about a different mice study,

“Scientists conducting experiments on agouti mice found that by manipulating nutrition they could switch off a certain gene. When the gene is active (‘on’) the mice are normally obese and a yellowish colour; by switching the gene off the mice are of a normal, slim appearance, and brown. By feeding a combination of nutrients including vitamin B12 to the mother before mating, the gene was able to be turned off in the babies.”

         Bible believer, do not give in to the wiles of evolutionary thought. We know God from His Word and our personal experience of His saving grace, and science supports rather than contradicts that knowledge. Only conclusions based on a naturalist worldview that excludes the need or possibility of God deny His plain communication about who He is and how He created all that we see. Those of you holding to a naturalist view, I challenge you to consider the possibility that God is real and evidence of nature rightly understood points toward Him.

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Inspired and Profitable

It is such a joy to teach young people about the Word of God. God’s Word is our foundation for truth and life. Trying to increase the students’ understanding and memory of what was being taught, I came up with a diagram. Perhaps it will help you, too.

2 Tim 3-16

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Having taught for 25 years, I have indeed seen many changes in public school. Some represent major cultural shifts while others reflect minor cycles of fad and fashion. One very curious change I have witnessed is a loss of faith in Science. Students used to almost universally confess that science and technology would eventually solve all of man’s problems. Disease will be defeated, genetic difficulties overcome, hunger eradicated, environmental problems will be historical artifacts of developing technologies, mysteries solved, a perpetual motion machine created that would solve all energy problemss, the galaxy traversed. Older minds may have written this off as so much blissful, youthful optimism and ignorance. Instead, I think that it was a product of a worldview that viewed science as the source and conduit of all truth. There were, of course, the rare skeptic that did not trust science or its message.

I see the opposite trend to be generally true today. It is the rare student that has an unflinching faith in Science, or anything for that matter, other than himself. Science and Technology have not solved all of our problems. Epidemics continue, hunger persists, climate change threatens, nuclear proliferation has rebooted, natural disasters terrorize, and people still don’t get along with each other. Unfulfilled expectations and personal discontent are on the rise. Science and technology are frequently viewed as the cause of environmental problems and stressed out living styles.

There could well be many sociological, cultural, and economic reasons for this shift, but I think that in a narrower sense of views about science as a human endeavor, both the blind faith in science and the skepticism of its merits arise from a basic misunderstanding of what the limits of science are. Science is neither the source and conduit of all truth nor the cause of the world’s most pressing problems. Science is a tool. As such it has limits. When I use my large ratchet as a hammer, I damage the tool and very poorly drive the pin I am trying to remove. In a similar way Science used in the wrong way brings harm to its prestige and to the understanding and application it is meant to drive. Science has at least 4 related limits.

Science may only be applied to things which are observable. This observation includes our 5 senses and any other remote sensing we may devise: camera, thermometer, radiation detector, ultrasound, etc. If only time, space, material, and energy exist as many insist, then this observability is not a limit. There is, however, evidence of more than the physical world (the source of beauty, information, purpose, emotions and will) and observability does not automatically exclude the spiritual realm. Scientists use inference (drawing conclusions) as a powerful tool, but it must be based on observation (quantitative data or measurement enable the observation to be unambiguous).

Science is also limited by the requirement of being testable. Scientists test hypotheses with controlled experiments to acquire a deeper understanding of the physical world. There are things that an experiment cannot test which nonetheless exist and effect our lives.

Scientific experiments must be repeatable. Other scientists must be able to use clearly set forth procedures and obtain the same results. If the results are different, some variable has not been controlled for or the experimenters were not careful enough in their observations. Therefore, scientists ask for procedures, data, and analyses from colleagues in order to determine if the conclusions are valid. The best way to do this is to repeat the experiment.

Finally, conclusions resulting from observations must be falsifiable. This does not mean that all evidence or conclusions will be falsified, but rather there must be the possibility of demonstrating that a conclusion is wrong. The essential function of Science is not to reveal truth but to eliminate falsehood. Based upon observation alone, one may never know for sure if something is true. But the ability to falsify wrong ideas narrows down what science accepts as true sufficiently to act upon it. This does not mean that there is no truth. It means that science does not have the ability to state truth in any absolute way. That must be done from other pursuits.

Many ideas are parading around, claiming to be scientific theories when they do not rise to the level of even a hypothesis, let alone a well substantiated hypothesis, that is, a theory. As an example, consider the issue of origins. How did we get here and how did it all begin? Can anyone who is living or has lived observe the beginning of the world? Since they cannot, can they possibly do an experiment on beginning a world? Is that experiment repeatable? If no experiment or observation by scientists may be done directly on the beginning of the world, then it is not a falsifiable idea. Therefore, though evidence may be given from subsequent events as to which version of origins is most likely, presuppositions are inevitably required in any discussion of origins. Another name for presuppositions, those assumptions made in order to begin a discussion or make inquiry, is beliefs. Any discussion of origins by definition is based on a worldview or belief system. It may be labeled religion or science, it does not matter, but it is essentially based on belief.

What this means for any discussion of origins is matching present evidence to the best presuppositional explanation. Does your belief about origins fit the evidence?

What this means about faith in or loss of faith in Science is a need to reconsider its value. Science is a valuable tool wielded by mechanics of varying training and skill, operating from differing worldviews. Retain a healthy skepticism that desires to understand what has been discovered and understood. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathe water. That is, don’t throw out the valuable tool of Science or the useful evidence it provides when you have to wade through false claims, poorly substantiated ‘theories’, intentionally falsified conclusions, or presuppositions that don’t match up with what you know to be true. Science is a useful tool.

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Sigh and Faith

One sentence from a comment on my last entry keeps coming back to me:

“A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.”        (G.K. Chesterton)

When I came across a small poem that I had written about a year ago and considered my daily struggles, it seemed an example of how I must doubt my sinful self and cling evermore so firmly to the saving truth that brings joy and confidence. This salvation is not a past tense thing, it is a continuous present tense thing:

A deep heavy sigh

To realize I’ve failed again

How can I reply

Other than repent of sin

Only live by faith

Letting God’s grace to shine through

Jesus first of all

In all life that I pursue

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Humble Absolutism

I read an article posted on Facebook (Someone reading this article is saying, “There was your first mistake.”) recently that was titled, “Want to be Smarter? Learn to Say “I Don’t Know” by Zat Rana. I think that the sense of the article is humility, which is a valuable virtue for all of life and particularly discussions of significant topics. Humility should rule all of our discussions and particularly those on profound and sublime subjects. He says early on, “Somehow, we have decided that it’s okay to hold beliefs based on blind affiliation rather than rigorous critical thought.” Far too much of that goes on, probably because assenting to ideas by affiliation is easier than researching a topic and coming to your own conclusions. Also, he says, “more often than not, the issue lies in our inability to humbly accept that we don’t and can’t know everything; that, often, we are wrong.”

So far I am tracking with him. But immediately he charges into his defense of his position with his first point: “The Irrationality of Certainty”. His most supporting thought is that “Certainty is an illusion, and there is no shame in being wrong because, by nature, our entire perception of the world is wrong.”  Now life truly is a balancing act, and we must hold many of our ideas lightly, but saying that there is nothing about which you can be certain, because it is an illusion, reduces all of life to relativism, which is illogical according the law of non-contradiction. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean it isn’t certain or that you can’t know it. There are things of substance that I can know for sure, not because I have all of the data, but because I know the One who does. There are absolutes and they can be known. There are many things I must hold lightly and be ready to be corrected and informed, but there are others I stake my life on.

His next sub-title is “The Disease of Blind Affiliation”. His contention is that “we form a connection to something that we fundamentally haven’t questioned.” In many scenarios of politics and tradition and even religious thinking, what he says is so very true, but don’t use this as an excuse not to make commitments about what is true. The agnostic view of the world and God is an excuse not to make a commitment that will require change and conviction. It reminds me of what the writer of Acts says about the Athenians concerning their questioning of Paul: “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” Act 17:21 This is how many avoid commitment to the truth: “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Timothy 3:7

“What is truth?” (John 18:38), Pilate asked Jesus. Was Pilate opened-minded? Was he seeking for truth? The evidence of the passage (John 18:29-19:18) is that he wanted to feel important, secure, popular, and in control, but he was not interested ultimately in what was true or right. His attempts to rescue Jesus were to avoid repercussions either from the crowd or some vague sense of a wrathful deity. Is it any different now? “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32-33), said Jesus. If you don’t start with God’s Word you certainly can’t continue in it. I urge you, dear reader, to dig into the Word of God and plead with God to reveal to you truth. It exists; it is unchanging; it is life changing; you can know with certainty; it will keep you humble.

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