Thursday, 5 July 2012

Regarding the announcement of the detection of something very close to Higgs boson

An example of simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Image courtesy of CERN.

There is much more work to be done, but as a reflection and very briefly, basically the theory is that the Higgs boson would provide the mechanism by which energy would become structured and acquire mass to become matter as such, with its fundamental properties like inertia, etc.
What are the implications? According to the equivalence equation E = m·c^2, matter and energy are different forms of a same reality from a quantitative viewpoint. My reflection is that this quantitative equivalence remains far from giving us the true picture. Nor is a book merely the quantitative sum of paper and ink, although it can be considered in a quantitative way from this viewpoint. But this would give us a very deficient aspect of the true reality of what a book is.
The structure of matter, especially at the atomic level, exhibits an enormous complexity of forces in balance, and the structure of atoms gives to each material species its physical and chemical qualities. Thus, atoms are structures designed to build all the architecture of the universe and of life in all their details. But in the same way in which paper and ink cannot be the explanation for the book, although they are certainly constitutive parts, also mere energy does not explain the structure of matter, which is the manifestation of a complex of structured energy interactions (directed Power).
The whole and utterly complex material reality is an exhibition of the consistency of the Divine purpose in the creation and in the upholding of the Universe. Its origin? The creating Word. Its continued support? The Word of His Power. And this Word has not only programmed the codes of life, the “software”, but also the structured interactions of energy in the must fundamental particles to constitute those same atoms which we classify in the Periodic Table (the basic «hardware» which, structured in different levels of organization and fine tuning, constitutes the universe in its different materializations, the biosphere as a framework for life, and the vehicles for the different manifestations of life in all their created levels). “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Santiago Escuain

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Divine evidences — Human hostility

The need of reasoning —its purpose and its limits
“... to attempt to stifle criticism of Scripture by the cry that ‘the Bible is the word of God’ only serves to excite distrust on the part of earnest and honest-hearted inquirers. There never was an attack made upon the truth that could not be refuted. ‘Truth is one’; but error is in its very nature inconsistent, and therefore absurd. And while Divine truth is spiritual, and can only be spiritually discerned, human error is natural, and can be met on its own ground. We cannot ‘reason’ men into the kingdom of God, but by reasoning we can expose errors which prejudice them against it.”

Sir Robert Anderson
- The Bible and Modern Criticism
(London, Pickering and Inglis, c. 1895), p. 27.
The reality of God and human resistance
Many materialists are not bothered by the presence of a faith stated in an emotional and dogmatic form, with no basis on evidence. When they become alarmed and upset is when it is remarked that the Intelligent Design in nature and of nature itself is detectable and provable. That it is a logical inference which, although it does not depend on a theistic or religious worldview, carries an unavoidable inference of the reality of a Wisdom and a Godhead which, although often denied, it is none the less evident. It is a logical inference that has always been present and that has always stood as a barrier against the materialists claims that the whole universe as the environment for life and that all life in the said universe have sprung without direction or purpose.
One of the reasons for this stonewalling on the part of many against the least possibility of an Intelligent Design of nature and of life is that they have the intuition that this brings them before Him who judges the innermost attitudes and motives. And this they will not want to accept at all. They will not want to accept such a conclusion. They want to reject this possibility from the very start. This has always been the great motivator of materialism. The denial of God is not a scientific conclusion, but a yearning of a humanity in search of a false autonomy, a yearning that has been covered under the disguise of a philosophical or a scientific jargon.
For instance, philosopher Thomas Nagel, in his book, The Last Word (Oxford University Press, 1997), talks about what he calls "the fear of religion itself." He writes,
“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.”

In his view, this fear may be “responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.” (p. 130)
That is why many materialists don't even want to talk about the evidences of Intelligent Design. For them it is a very personal, emotional matter. And they sense that it is a lost battle. Thus, instead of discussing about the facts and data as they are known today about the structures and functions of life, and about the theoretical possibilities that these facts and data allow, and about the limits that might or might not exist in the process of mutation and selection, they lower themselves to ridiculing and to throwing invectives, and try to confuse the matters that should be object of open debate. They even try to prevent the public presentation of these matters, as it happened recently in several places in Spain[1], and, like the squid, they throw a cloud of ink in their attempt to avoid a reasoned discussion of the matter.
On ridiculing the opponent:
When ridicule and mockery take the place of argument, we have to be wary. The use of ridicule against a reasoned exposition of arguments is a wretched attitude. However, humour can be the answer sometimes when the absurdity of a position is either clear by itself or has been demonstrated by a reasoned explanation; then the absurdity of such position may bring up the ridicule of the situation of those who may persist in an argument that has been refuted by facts or as inconsequential with them.
Speaking about evidences
One of the subjects in Physics is that to effect the separation of the molecules of a gas at a given temperature into two distributions of the said gas, a colder portion and a hotter portion, the so-called «Maxwell’s Demon» is needed, that is to say, an agent that may obtain information of each molecule of the said gas and act accordingly, to select it and let it pass and isolate it in the proper section of the system made ready to achieve the said differentiation. In summary, to select you need a given purpose, information and a source of energy for the work needed for the operation of the system, an operation guided by an information addressed to an end. We can also achieve a dissociation to even more segregated thermal groups (we can achieve groups segregated degree by degree). This implies more complication, a more complex mechanism.
By «evolution», when applied to the origin and development of life, what is generally understood is the emergence of new characters, of new structures, of new functions —by natural selection?
Darwin remarked that selection could be made between already existing characters, but this was known from old times. He advanced many examples of ARTIFICIAL selection and proposed a parallelism with natural selection which would improve the already existing traits and favouring the emergence of more and more complex structures.
The problem is that here we have a false parallelism. The real question, when we are dealing with the ORIGIN of new structures and functions (sight, hearing, flight, the diverse physiologic functions, etc.) is not how these structures are selected and improved, but how they ORIGINATE.
The paramount question in the origin and coordination of the diverse organic functions of the cell and of the organism is the production of the components and their coordination. First the material has to be available, then those necessary materials will have to be selected and placed in their due and corresponding relationships. A purpose, an end in view is necessary, and to possess the information that may direct all this arrangement. It is necessary not only to select all the adequate elements, but it is necessary as well to exclude all those that would interfere and that would make it impossible to reach the desired end.
For instance, to achieve the rotary motor of the bacterial flagellum, some given pieces are needed. These pieces are obtained through a manufacturing profess of each component in the desired quantities. And the manufacturing process of these pieces in the cell includes a series of steps which go from the reading of the instructions in the central library cell (DNA) to prepare transcriptions (not a mere copy) where information supports like mRNA are involved, as well as codified transport media of basic materials (aminoacids) as tRNAs, specific enzymes to join the tRNA with the said aminoacids, and machinery for the assembly of proteins (ribosomes) which, by means of a reading head, read the instructions which are transported to the same, and with other functions of this complex machine, weld the unit compounds (aminoacids) in the sequences commanded by the code supported by the lengths of mRNA which tell which tRNAs which each carry a specific aminoacid must enter every time in the entrance zone of the corresponding ribosome, to achieve the production of the proteins, both the structural ones and the enzymes, which are the fundamental components of the structures and of the functions of the cells.
Once the pieces of the motor of the bacterial flagellum have been obtained by means of this process of manufacture assisted by a cybernetic PROGRAMMED system with the reading of the codes and with all its systems of regulation and control, we are just at the beginning. The assembly of the motor follows a whole sequence that has been also PROGRAMMED, wholly regulated and controlled with the sending and receiving of signals of start-up and end of each of the sequential steps.
But this motor would not be able to do a thing without receiving (protonic) energy, which arrives through circuits which are as well product of a manufacture assisted by program, program also stored in the central library (DNA), transcribed and governed by the same process. And these circuits would not be fed by energy without the existence of another mechanism like that of ATP synthase which feeds all the different circuits and functions of the cell, of which we give one amongst thousands of examples.
Thus, we see that the great secret of all the production of these systems is the INFORMATION applied by means of sophisticated devices. It is not possible to achieve the selective production of components and their concatenation in coordinated systems without a system of reading and treatment of information. Codes, information, word and thought are everywhere, embodied in the performance of a plan and of a purpose.
Natural selection cannot achieve the origin of that which it selects. It is irrelevant regarding the origin of the structures of life, at all levels.
The necessary selection to obtain complex systems for regulation and control adapted to an end demands the existence of a transcending Mind and Purpose. The reality of life in particular, and of its framework, the universe in general, takes us to the consciousness of the reality of God, of His power and godhead.
The force of the evidence was felt even before the discovery of the nanomachinery of life by none other than Ernst Mayr, one of the most staunch Darwinists of the 20th Century. He had to confess that
“... it is a considerable strain on one's credulity to assume that finely balanced systems such as certain sense organs (the eye of vertebrates, or the bird's feather) could be improved by random mutations. This is even more true of some ecological chain relationships (the famous Yucca moth case, and so forth).”

Mayr, Ernst (1942)
Systematics and the Origin
of Species,
p. 296
Of course, he immediately adds that:

“However, the objectors of random mutations have so far been unable to advance any alternative explanation that was supported by substantial evidence.”
This attempt to solve this matter in this way tries to sideline the reality of the evidence that points to life as a result of an act of creation by God. It is here that the well known physicist and cosmologist Carl F. von Weizsäcker, although a materialist and a Darwinist, uncovers the true state of affairs, which, since the time he wrote, has been really worsening more and more for any materialistic approach to the origin and development of life:
“We do not yet understand the causes of evolution too well, but we have very little doubt about the fact of evolution; ... What are the reasons for this general belief? In the last lecture I formulated them negatively: We do not know how life should have come to exist in its actual form by any other way. This formulation leaves silently aside any possible supernatural origin of life; such is the faith in science of our time which we all share.” [The Relevance of Science, Collins, London and Glasgow, 1964, p. 141.]

The weight of evidence facing a hostile will
In my view, I.D. will generate hostility in a mind-set that is already hostile to its basic outcome. As Richard Lewontin put it so quaintly in his review of some years ago, “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”. It is not that the evidence is weak but that the materialistic mind has an axe to grind. Materialism MUST be maintained at all costs.
So, in fact, this is a deeply personal matter: Materialism, promising Man freedom, but bringing with it all its ultimate despair, or Theism, bringing Man before God. But man's attitude is not neutral; there is nothing irenic in it. Unrepentant man is at enmity against God and therefore in its natural state prefers rather to reject or reinterpret all evidence of God in the design of all nature in materialistic terms.
The bottom line is that Materialism has provided an illusory refuge for Man where to hide from God.
The problem is not in the evidence. There is a mountain of evidence to bring anybody to the conviction of the reality of a Design. But evidence is not a sufficient thing when facing a hostile attitude against God, as the one shown by the philosopher Nagel. We are surrounded by evidence. Out there in created Nature. The problem exists in the mindset of man, looking at design as something to be rejected, not because it is not apparent in the study of the created things, but because of a very strong bias against the evidence. When Dawkins says in his preface to The Blind Watchmaker: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”, and then proceeds to apply the criteria that Lewontin describes in his review, he does so because "they have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism" ... they “CANNOT allow a Divine Foot in the door”. To be able to accept Intelligent Design, more than evidence is necessary, what is needed is a change of inner attitude that may break with the prior commitment to materialism and that may open itself to the reality that surrounds us. This prior commitment to materialism shows a heart of hostility against God. To come to a proper perspective of reality, repentance towards God is needed —and the end in view is a supernatural change of view transforming hostility and thanklessness into worship and thankfulness (Romans 1:20-22).
Yes, the bottom line is that the controversy is about much more than science, it is about the heart of man – which, taking his cue from the diatribes of Voltaire and others like him against God, seeks to deny all sovereign action of God in creation, providence, salvation and judgment. Thus modern man rebuilds his view of reality into one that God is absent, with the illusion of receiving therefore his freedom. But, as a lecturer remarked many years ago, in words that have stayed in my mind: “The optimistic Atheism of the Nineteenth Century thought that by displacing God, Man would have a place to be a man; the pessimistic Atheism of the Twentieth Century discovered that by having displaced God, Man had lost all place to be a man”.
Addressing himself to God, Augustine of Hippo (350-430) says: “Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in thee!” (Confessions, I, 1)
Santiago Escuain

[1] For information in English on these events, click HERE; for more complete information in Spanish, click HERE
For supplementary reading: Evolutionist Learns from “Neo-Creationists”

For a sobering analysis of recent evolutionary claims that cannot be maintained, about evolution having been proved by lab experiments, and others, see:

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Evidence, Philosophy and Faith

"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved."
(Francis Crick, Nobel Prize
famous co-decoder of DNA,
What Mad Pursuit
[New York: Basic Books, 1988], p. 138.)
The question that has to be asked at this junction is: Why is it that biologists have to constantly remind themselves that those things they observe have not been designed? The fact is that what they see in the machinery of life, in all the systems of information storage, transcription and transfer, and of translation of the said information to the cell and intercellular structures and functions, carries with it a powerful inference of a transcendent and purposeful divine plan. And to maintain a predetermined materialistic view, it is necessary to repeat the following mantra: “this has evolved, this has evolved, this has evolved ...”
Actually, the rest of the paragraph —which begins with the sentence above— is deeply interesting:
"It might be thought, therefore, that evolutionary arguments would play a large role in guiding biological research, but that is far from the case. It is difficult enough to study what is happening now. To try to figure out exactly what happened in evolution is even more difficult. Thus evolutionary arguments can usefully be used as hints to suggest possible lines of research, but it is highly dangerous to trust them too much. It is all too easy to make mistaken inferences unless the process involved is already very well understood." (pp. 138-139; emphasis in original.)

All this agrees certainly with the words of geneticist and materialist Richard Lewontin, professor al Harvard, when he says "... we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." New York Review of Books (January 9th, 1997, p. 31).
And Lewontin is by no means the only one in acknowledging this prejudice. Amongst others, cosmologist Carl F. von Weizsäcker had already said so much in his Gifford Lectures 1959-1960: “It is not by its conclusions, but by its methodological starting point that modern science excludes direct creation. Our methodology would not be honest if it denied this fact. We do not possess positive proof of the inorganic origin of life or of the primate ancestry of man, perhaps not even for evolution itself if we want to be pedantic” [The Relevance of Science, Collins, London 1964, p. 136.]
We see, then, that materialism is a philosophical prejudice as a starting point, not a scientific conclusion; more than that, that its purpose is not to follow the evidence where it leads, but to search for material explanations, excluding any other possibility as a matter of principle.
Design - an inference, not an assumption
On the other had, the existence of God is not a hypothesis at all, but an inescapable conclusion founded in a whole line of evidence which commands full assent, and that, as we have seen, can only be denied because of a wilful adherence to a materialism in spite of all the weight of evidence. Regarding the evidence of a not apparent, but real conscious design, biochemist Michael Denton has this to say:
"The almost irresistible force of the analogy has completely undermined the complacent assumption, prevalent in biological circles over most of the past century, that the design hypothesis can be excluded on the grounds that the notion is fundamentally a metaphysical a priori concept and therefore scientifically unsound. On the contrary, the inference to design is a purely a posteriori induction based on a ruthlessly consistent application of the logic of analogy. The conclusion may have religious implications, but it does not depend on religious presuppositions."

Evolution: A Theory in Crisis
(Bethesda, Maryland: Adler and Adler
Publishers, 1986), pág. 341.
Most certainly, the evidence of a plan and design of a necessarily transcendent and uncaused personal Super-intellect is denied by materialism, but not at all refuted. The existence of God is therefore simply a matter of evidence and not of faith. The belief of God as a vital and tangible reality is based in that which He has created, as it is stated clearly in the words of Paul to the Romans: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse ...”
The futility of atheism
Dostoyevsky makes one of his characters say in his novel The Brothers Kamarazov: "If there is no God, everything is permitted". And this is the approach generally taken with reference to atheism. However, this looks like a very myopic stance. The fact is that if there is no God, all is absurd. Jean-Paul Sartre was clinging more to the logic of things when, through his main character in Nausea, describes the feeling of emptiness, of absurdity, of an existence that has come by accident, which comes from nothingness and goes back to nothingness, and which has an instant of consciousness of self but as something completely illusory. It is thus that the feeling of nausea springs up in the well informed atheist that Sartre describes in such masterful way.
A professor of the University of Deusto said it many years ago in "La Fontana d'Or", in Girona, at a lecture on philosophy: From Kant to the Present. I don't remember his name, only that he was a professor of philosophy, and that he was of the University of Deusto. But he made a statement that impressed me and that I have always remembered: "The optimistic atheism of the XIXth Century believed that, by excluding God, man obtained his space to be truly a man. But the pessimistic atheism of the XXth Century realised that, by excluding God, man lost all space to be a man". The godly Augustine of Hippo said it with other words: "O God, thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts do not find rest until they find it in Thee".
Here we have the great contrast between the ill informed optimistic atheist and the well informed pessimistic atheist; between the childish atheism of the XIXth Century and the mature atheism of the XXth Century, which finally realises the consequences of proclaiming the death of God. Man, as man, loses all space to be such. Because the space of man is God, and without God he is thrown into a black hole which sucks him into the personal perdition in all aspects, in time, in space, and in eternity. And it is because it is not God who has died, but man, separated from God, and excluded not from existence, but excluded from life.
Philosophy or revelation?
Philosophy seeks the knowledge of the ultimate realities by means of a critical reflection, including the methodical doubt. But given that the ultimate reality is the Personal Reality, the personal Being of God, philosophy becomes impotent. At best, philosophy may reach some limited approximations about reality. But if that Reality is personal, it can only become known when a flux of communication is established proceeding from the said personal Reality to the contingent personal realities that we are. It is only by means of the word that there can be communication from one person to another one. This knowledge is only possible as we open one another by means of the communication of our thoughts by verbalizing them. And this is what happens with the knowledge of God: revelation is essential. Here, philosophy is impotent. All the philosophy of the world will never reach the knowledge of the Other One. At most, it may reach inferences "about" the Other One, but it will never come to the personal knowledge. We only know the others by the word, and in the same way we will only come to know the Other One by the Word.
Philosophy is a useful tool, but limited in its scope. The error lies in the stance of philosophism, in the attempt to embrace the totality of reality by means of philosophy. Reason, as a servant of communication, of Revelation, is a magnificent tool we have received from God. Rationalism is in practice idolatry, by placing as supreme that which is subordinate. Reason cannot establish the measure of reality, but, beginning with reality as it is known through the senses, including Revelation, to reason within the framework given by the facts. But reason can never presuppose the facts. This is done by a misguided rationalism. Reason examines the facts, acknowledges them, and begins with them. But what is essential is communication, the personal Revelation. Without it we will never come to know the others, nor the Other One.
Faith —more, not less
Faith is much more than a knowledge acquired through the senses, not much less. By direct observation we may come to perceive aspects of the reality around us, and we are taken to the inference of design, of a real intelligent design, not an apparent one, of the wonders of life and of its environment. An open mind not set against God acknowledges in Creation the Power and Wisdom of God. But this is not faith, but to follow the evidence where it leads us. And evidence cannot lead us beyond this point. It cannot give us the knowledge of God Himself (not to speak of the explanation of the tragedy present in this world, which so affected Darwin, and which so affects every person that comes to this world). But it gives us the conviction that God is there. How can we come to know this God?
The question could be put also this way: How can we get to know somebody in a personal way? Only insofar as this somebody opens to us, communicates with us, and this in a VERBAL form. And for such knowledge it is imperative that confidence should exist. Without confidence in the interlocutor, no personal tie can be established nor is it possible to come to the knowledge of the "other one". There can be no relationship, nor personal acquaintance, where there is distrust.
In the Revelation, God has spoken. But we can only come to know Him and to establish a tie with Him when there is trust. When we listen to God and trust in Him, it is then only that we can come to know Him and to have a personal relationship with Him. Now, this can only be through a way. Man, in his own questions about whether God is or is not, shows by itself his departure from Good —man, in his natural state, has no relationship with God. It may well be that some may make efforts, that some may philosophize, that they may seek to remake the tie with God (by means of "religion" understood as the human effort to achieve acceptance from God). This obvious departure of man from God shows the reality of some fundamental factors which form part of this same revelation of God in Whom we are called to trust. This revelation from God tells us of the FALL of man, of the blinding effects of sin in the human mind, and of the inclination of men against God —of the natural enmity of men against God. This is the antithesis of trust.
The Revelation tells us also about HUMAN GUILT, and of how God necessarily must condemn all that is contrary to His holiness —the rebellion of the creature against his Creator. But it also tells us of the love of God towards His creature and of what He has done to return Man to Himself while maintaining His righteousness.
God the Son becomes Man and becomes, in this way, He who is Man and God in the person of Jesus Christ, in His double nature as a true MAN (member of our race by the Incarnation, but exempt from sin) and true God (His infinite and eternal nature as He who is the Word that was already in the beginning and from eternity, who was with God and who was God —John 1:1ss). And he does it following the announcements given from the beginning and along the history of Revelation:
1) To manifest Himself in the midst of men and to reveal in a full way the love of God, being He "God with us".
2) To share with us the afflictions that we suffer because of sin: «In all their affliction he was afflicted». He suffered with us.
3) To present Himself, as that holy man, in behalf of men, whose human nature He shared, as a member of our race, as a sacrifice for ourselves, a sacrifice worthy of God (with all the infinite value of His infinite and eternal person and the reality of His humanity by which He represented us). Thus He could bear the burden of our guilt, giving full satisfaction on the cross, by His death, to the justice of God for the sins of those He represented —and in this way to open the door for us to be acceptable and accepted by God, by believing in Him and coming to God by Him. He suffered for us.
The key: FAITH. That faith that is confidence in God, and in that which God has done by means of Jesus Christ and in that which God has told us about the same —beforehand through the prophets and in retrospect by the announcers of the great and good news; that God has brought salvation, that He has not only the knowledge of Himself, but that He has solved the great issue of our moral guilt which barred the way as an eternal barrier to our entrance before God. Now we are invited in Jesus Christ to enter freely before Him.
The three great points of God's salvation are:
1) the Incarnation (the identification of God the Son with the human race, sin excepted);
2) the Cross (the offering of Himself before God as our representative and substitute, giving satisfaction before the justice of God for the sins of all humanity. He had legitimacy to do it, as a member of humanity; he had capability to do it, by virtue of His infinite and eternal nature —the value of His Person was infinite, as also was the value of His sacrifice);
3) the Resurrection: this event seals His work of full satisfaction of God's righteousness, and certifies that together with the satisfaction of sin He has abolished its fruit: death. He is the head of the new creation, which He will introduce in due time in its fullness.
Therefore, faith is not less, but much more than any perception of that which is visible in our surroundings. In the same way as the confidence in our interlocutors is the only way to know them, to open up mind to mind, heart to heart, person to person, thus trust in God —in what He is, in what He has done, in what He communicates to us (and His full communication is in Jesus Christ) is the only way to come to know Him —by FAITH we have the greatest of knowledge: the personal, real, knowledge of God, and of all that He communicates to us, about our history, about our need, about His provision and His plans for the future. Thus, therefore, faith is the deepest of the means of knowledge. Excluding lying, which destroys confidence and communication as such, it is the only way of knowledge amongst humans. And from Him who neither lies nor can ever lie, God, we receive a communication for the restoration of our hearts in faith to Him. And we can certainly found our faith on Him who having died, rose again, and Who says to us: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John, chapter 14, verse 6).
Santiago Escuain

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

About Intelligent Design, Darwinism and Creationism

“A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; ...”

Charles Darwin,
The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859, Introduction.

When a matter is not known in all its fullness, often the apparent facts can be interpreted in different ways. A superficial knowledge of the facts related to phenomena like, for example, bacterial resistance to antibiotics, or that of diverse pests to pesticides, may conjure Darwinian extrapolations, or interpretations consistent with the thesis of Intelligent Design (ID). It is the detailed knowledge of the diverse mechanisms which will allow us to elucidate the consequences; the conclusion of a rigorous examination is that they do not bring anything constructive nor relevant for the origin of a NEW genetic or structural information. They rather spring from mechanisms which were either already programmed for protection (activation of devices already present in the organism), or from the working of mutations which cause reductions of the genetic and structural capacities of the affected organisms, or perhaps other defence strategies that do not generate genetic novelties (biopolymers, etc.).
The increase of knowledge as to the details of the mutation mechanisms do not bring us to a conclusion of a neodarwinian mechanism that generates novelties, rather one that generates an increasing reduction of information and structure of the organisms that suffer it. See, e.g., the article Is Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics an Appropriate Example of Evolutionary Change?
On the other hand, referring to the nature of fossils, Edmund Ambrose acknowledged, not so long ago, that:
“At the present stage of geological research, we have to admit that there is nothing in the geological records that runs contrary to the view of conservative creationists, that God created each species separately, presumably from the dust of the earth.”
Edmund Ambrose,
The Nature and Origin of the Biological World
New York:
(John Wiley and Sons, 1982), p. 164.

ID distinguished from Creationism
When it is said that ID is not creationism, that it does not support a recent Earth or that it does not support the Diluvial or Cataclismic thesis as an explanation of the geological nature of Earth, it must be remarked that it neither supports such thesis nor denies them. It is simply that ID is an instrument for the detection of plan, of purposeful intent, of an intelligent intervention that may have been the cause of certain events or that may be at the origin of certain artefacts that could not have existed without the said intelligent action (e. g., the linking of only L-alfa-aminoacids for the formation of proteins, and the linking of only D-sugars for the formation of DNA chains, the isolation and linking of the compounds of all the structures of life —an embodiment which would be impossible with the solitary action of natural laws in natural chemical systems).
Therefore, the determination of ID does not examine nor touch upon the HOW nor the WHEN, it is rather a rigorous empirical instrument for the detection of the INTELLIGENT DESIGN of specified complex systems. For the history, the when, the how, it is necessary to resort to historical resources.
ID makes on the one hand a very modest proposal, but at the same time a very powerful one: the irrefutable detection of DESIGN and the embodiment of the said design in a set of structures that evince the reality of a true INTELLIGENT DESIGN, and not the activity of natural forces, which are shown to be impotent for such a thing.
Now, what reasons are there for attacks as bitter as those that have been launched against ID from the barricades of materialism? The famous Harvard geneticist, Richard Lewontin, says it very openly, with very blunt words which bring to mind Voltaire's campaign against the revealed God and his clamour against God with his blasphemous words “Écrassez l’Infâme”. See Lewontin’s words in the sidebar.
As Darby reasons in his essay “The Irrationality of Infidelity”, God is excluded thereby. And, as Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, such people “hold the truth in unrighteousness”, and this they do in such a way that they are “without excuse”.
- ID is not “creationism” understood as a system, as a full blown conception of the world. It is limited to facilitate the identification of DESIGN in an object or in an occurrence.
- ID does not necessarily comport FIAT creation as revealed in Genesis —as it does not deny it at all: it is outside of its competence. ID is a common factor to every thesis that states that an intelligence has had to plan, to choose, direct and embody his creations through ways which are not limited to present natural laws or processes. It is compatible with certain varieties of theistic evolutionism and with several more directly creationist positions (progressive creationism, old earth and young earth creationism, etc.). But in itself ID is NOT fiat creationism. NEITHER theistic evolutionism. It is the objective, analytical instrument for the detection of a design embodied in an intelligent plan which follows a preconceived purpose by the designer or planner of the said occurrence or of the said object. ...
Richard Dawkins stated that Charles Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist” —and indeed, Darwinism and the Neodarwinian synthesis are not a dispassionate scientific search for truth, but an intellectual endeavour that seeks to establish and justify a prior position: atheism, as Lewontin has acknowledged openly (see sidebar). But the enthusiasm shown by Dawkins was ill-founded and unjustified. Darwinism has shown to be a failed explanation for the origin of species, and also all attempts to explain the origin of life itself from a materialist approach are completely bankrupt. The features of life keep proclaiming out loud the reality of a NON apparent design, but a real one, of a NON natural selection, but full of deliberation and conscious, guided to a purpose and with full information to reach its end. A Design and a Purpose become evident, the Power and Godhead of the Creator.
Design and Plan
In nature, design is not something apparent, against what Dawkins says, but real; it is not the product of blind processes, but of a will, a purpose, a plan, of God. Dawkins says that “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” —for Dawkins the key words are “give the appearance”— the appearance is there, but, according to him, it is only a mirage. On what does he base such a position? This is the partisan view of the Atheologian.
"When we consider a human work, we believe we know where the 'intelligence' which fashioned it comes from; but when a living being is concerned, no one knows or ever knew, neither Darwin nor Epicurus, neither Leibniz nor Aristotle, neither Einstein nor Parmenides.
An act of faith is necessary to make us adopt one hypothesis rather than another. Science, which does not accept any credo, or in any case should not, acknowledges its ignorance, its inability to solve this problem which, we are certain, exists and has reality.
If the search for the origin of information in a computer is not a false problem, why should it be when it is a matter of the information contained in the cellular nuclei?"
(Grasse P.-P., "Evolution of Living Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation," Academic Press: New York NY, 1977, p2) Corrected version on the basis of the French original, which in the last part says:
“Si rechercher l'origine de l'information dans un ordinateur n'es pas un faux problème, pourquoi le serait-ce quand il s'agit de l'information contenue dans les noyaux cellulaires?"

Fundamentally —and against those that maintain it is a matter of faith versus science, the debate of ID takes place against a position which is dogmatically materialistic from its very beginning (see Lewontin), while ID sets down the criteria to distinguish between secondary causes, the operation of natural law, etc., on the one hand, and intelligent causes (deliberate selection, inventiveness, generation of specified complexity), on the other. Materialism cannot pretend to be more than what it is: an ideological prejudice, and not the final measure of reality, which cannot admit this restriction ON PRINCIPLE.
Santiago Escuain

Monday, 14 April 2008

The origin of life – an unsolvable problem for materialism

When we address the question of the origin of life, we refer really to the origin of the first metabolic unit which can reproduce and perpetuate itself.
Before the great advances in microscopy and other observation techniques, it was believed that cells were relatively simple entities, a protoplasm where chemical interactions gave them their dynamic and reproductive properties. Not until the structures of the cell were observed by high resolution electronic microscopy and by means of other techniques that it was known that it was not a matter of mere chemical interactions, of more or less complexity, but of very complex interactions where a whole set of highly miniaturized complex machines made up of pieces of protein material fulfilled very specific functions within a vast biological-industrial complex, with systems for storage and retrieval, translation, transcription and maintenance of information, of regulation and control of processes, of capture, transformation and application of energy, of selective entrance of materials, and their automated transport by codified identification systems, with clocks and timers for all the rates of function and operation.
Thus, the problem of the origin of a living system is not limited merely to the origin of its functional systems as such, but:
1) If at first the systems were formed by some chance (systems of energy capture, energy conversion, and energy application for functions),
2) then, how did these proteinic structures come to be described in a codified system of information supported by the DNA
3) which afterwards could reproduce them by means of the complex of DNA-RNA transcription together with the whole complex of protein machines which are in their turn codified in DNA?
Support of information and Information – a needful distinction
Sometimes there is the unconscious idea that DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) IS the genetic information, and that if the formation of DNA could be explained we would have solved the problem of the origin of the codes of life. It is necessary to distinguish between the support of information and information itself.
An example of it we find in a high-frequency wave, which is no information by itself, and which could be explained as an emission due to a natural process. But a high-frequency wave can be a support of information, when a source of information (the human voice, a musical source, etc.), modulates either its amplitude, its frequency or its phase by means of devices applied to this end.
Another support of information is paper and ink, which cannot by themselves explain the message expressed by their means; the sequence of letters gives the message, either a novel or technical specifications to build a machine. The same with DNA, which by itself could never explain the sequence of the chemical bases, which gives codes for an end in view. This besides the inability of any merely chemical system to produce this molecule.
The same information can be transferred from one support to another one, from electromagnetic waves bearing a Morse code (... --- ...) to letters on paper (SOS) or to binary computer code or to the Braille alphabet. The message, the information, is an entelechy that communicates meanings and which can ride on different supports, and which, therefore, is not the support itself, but independent from it.
Therefore, the DNA chains are not information, paper and ink are not information, the surface of a CD-R is not information – but they serve as media to contain information. It may be said with these words: The plays of Shakespeare are much more than the paper and ink with which the book is produced. There is another magnitude besides the material support: the message.
Thus, what we have is information, which is generated by a mind, (1) either to communicate it to another mind when both minds share the same code, or have means to translate the codes to make them understandable, or (2) to dictate instructions issuing from a mind for achieving some specified purposes, which are thereafter applied by a set of mechanisms that are capable to receive this information and translate it into results.
What was first – the chicken or the egg?
So, the problem stands thus: Were the proteinic machines first formed by chance? In this case, how did they become described and codified on the DNA support and how was formed the whole proteinic machinery for the transcription and materialization of this information to give in its turn all the proteinic structures formed first by chance?
Or perhaps the DNA was first formed by chance, with the codes of life? With all the instructions for the different components of the cellular machinery, for the capture, conversion and application and energy, and for identification and transportation of materials to different parts of the cell, as well as the instructions for the sequences and timings of the assembly? And how much time passed until all the machinery to READ these instructions and to apply them in a functional way was formed by chance?
And, while the machinery was being formed to be able to use the information on this DNA support, which is chemically very fragile, how can the non-degradation and dissolution of a rich-information DNA chain be explained, without the needed proteins and enzymes for its protection, activation, repair and reproduction?
The alternatives
The differing options that have been proposed regarding the origin of life, regarding the origin of the first functional cell, are:
a. Chance + Natural Selection
b. Natural deterministic law
c. Personal intelligent direction
a. Chance + Natural Selection
An argument used by materialists is that the machinery of life, with all its complexity, bears no comparison with the "true" machines invented and made by men, "because he machines made by men do not reproduce, and it is the capability of reproduction what makes it possible for living beings to evolve by natural selection". But this argument is wholly false in relation to the origin of life: It is not only because the machines of the cells, which are real and highly miniaturized machines, are of an exquisite complexity, and because they are coordinated in their functions in time and rates for the systems of treatment, translation and transcription of information. The matter is also that cell reproduction cannot happen UNTIL WE HAVE THE CELL AS A WHOLE. Therefore, the materialist cannot adduce any difference between the cell machinery and the machinery invented by man "because those are living systems". There is no biological life until we have all the information systems with all their machinery, both the information itself contained in its DNA material support, transcribed then by a whole set of machines made up of specific protein pieces which then translate this information for the manufacture of the needed materials and as instructions for the positioning and addressing of the materials, and for the timing and regulation of the different cellular and organismic functions of life. The whole system is needed for the highly complex functions of life TO START TO EXIST. The parallelism of the origin of a cell by chance should be established with that of a whole industrial automated set-up of such a complexity that it could reproduce itself, from all the databases with the complete specifications of all machines, their placements, the materials they have to receive and how they have to process them, and for the maintenance of the whole complex, to the machines themselves and all their environment, connections, systems of capture, transformation and application of energy, systems of regulation and control of processes, selective hoppers for the feed of specific materials, and automated hatches for the exit of other materials, etc,
Therefore, the materialist cannot dodge the real problem posed as to the origin of this machinery with the statement that "those are living systems", because these living systems do not exist until we do not have in existence the integrated whole of all these informational system with all of its machinery, where the protein machines are codified in the DNA, but where DNA cannot express its information except by means of the operation of these protein machines.
In the pairing "Chance + Natural Selection", even when great importance is attributed to "selective pressures" to give the impression that the said pressure brings about the emergence of new organs and of new biological functions, it must be considered that selection, whether natural or artificial, can only operate on that which already exists, and also additionally that it can only operate on entities that are already reproductive. Therefore, natural selection can only exist when the living cell already exists and reproduces itself. It cannot therefore be invoked as a cause of its origin. Obviously, natural selection would not be able to act to build the reproductive system of the cell, as the indispensable reproductive function would not exist as yet. In this case, what we contemplate is the origin of the integrated whole of the first cell by pure chance. And chance is ruled out.
b. Natural deterministic law
In the first decades of speculation regarding the possible formation of a living cell by purely materialistic processes, a branch of materialists expressed the conviction that the natural laws themselves would have brought about the unavoidable formation of life. Amongst others, Kenyon and Steinmann expressed this position in their book Biochemical Predestination. Nowadays this idea is still held in the popular concept that if conditions are right, life will necessarily happen. The idea is that if we should find a planet or a satellite with "earthly" conditions, we could expect to find life, naturally brought about by these same natural laws, as it is assumed.
But the reality is that the properties of the chemical systems PRECLUDE the accumulation of the needed components for life, and even the formation of the said components (DNA, polypeptidic chains, etc.) not to mention all the assembly of the compounds into dynamic and coordinated systems of code-reading, mutation-correcting, and transcribing, regulating, manufacturing protein machines, as well as systems for the capture, transformation, application and regulation of energy, of automated transport of materials, etc. Natural laws are helpless to explain the origin of life. Even more, they prevent it in the absence of a deliberate action, either immediate or mediated, because they act in a contrary direction; they are not of an integrating nature, but disintegrating.
c. Personal intelligent direction
In the same way as the complex of mechanical, electrical and pneumatic components, static or dynamic, of a coordinated and automated system of machines, cannot be explained by chance nor by the laws of matter (although when the whole complex has been built intelligently, it certainly follows the laws of physics and chemistry), those biochemical structures and their concatenation cannot be explained by chance nor by the action of natural law, either. They are the expression of Contrivance for the performance of a special purpose; it all bespeaks a Mind, and a purposeful Creating Mind at that: of the Godhead and the Power of God.
Denial – no refutation
----Materialism as idolatry
Those that refuse God His capability and power to create end up, many of them, ascribing this quality to that which objectively does not possess it —to the universe (por example, Sir Fred Hoyle [The Intelligent Universe], De Duve [Vital Dust], to the physico-chemical systems, etc.
So, such people refuse God the being, the wisdom and power, and ascribe all this to [N]ature, "Mother Nature", etc. They refuse to God the worship that belongs to Him and worship the creature, that which is justly denounced by Scripture as a capital sin of a culture that has risen in rebellion against God:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, ... Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
(Romans 1:18-22, 25.)

Santiago Escuain

Friday, 28 March 2008

God in Creation, and God in Providence

NOTE: This entry is a compilation of thoughts written down throughout 2007. Therefore, they date from before the publication of the article by Oliver R. Barclay in Aletheia, n.º 31, 1/2007, pp. 39-52 [a publication of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance], and do not constitute a point by point reply to it; however, I do provide some reflections to some of the questions raised by the said author.
* * * * * *
Qualitative differences between origins and operation
The detectability of special design does not exclude at all a general design in the so-called Natural Law. But the Natural Law as a framework is qualitatively different from the system of engines and inventions of the gadgets of life, of its mechanisms. The vast system of Natural Law is a system of uniform cause and effect, and constitutes the operational framework within which life is made possible but not necessary; it certainly shows design and purpose. But this system of uniform operation of cause and effect is not the cause, cannot be the origin, of the computer-like, cybernetic system of life; in the same way as the electrical, magnetic, mechanic laws that a set of machinery obeys in its operations cannot explain the origin of the machinery, of all its gadgetry —all this results from an inventiveness that belongs to another level.
Information cannot be explained by matter nor by energy. Information is the expression of a purpose that has as its ed to materialize the said purpose in its execution and to communicate information for the performance and control of the processes that bring about a proposed end.
The key lies in that in the summit of the hierarchy is the purpose of a Being that, in the last term, must be recognized necessarily as God. And information is the key of life and of Revelation. Both things come from God. He is the source of the one and of the other.
Direct intervention and providence
DI does not pretend to attribute EVERYTHING to a direct action, to a direct intervention of God —God acts often through secondary causes. What DI does is to bring in some rigorous instruments to distinguish the action, the embodiment, of a purpose, of a design through a plan that is not apparent but real, produced in an intelligent way (for instance, the production of some devices, of a machinery), in contrast with what is produced by the uniform operation of causes and effects governed by laws (the operation of the designed machine). The issue discriminated by the analytical apparatus (the filter) of the ID is that the properties of the system CANNOT give rise to the elements of this said natural or technological system. Only when this system has its components formed and in their corresponding place (chlorophyll, flagella, ribosomes, mitochondria, etc.) can it then be maintained by a whole series of conservative processes. But these processes of operation and conservation of the system CANNOT explain its origin; these demands an inventiveness, an intelligent activity, OUT OF REACH of the forces and laws by which the system works.
The criterion
The essential question is: Can the origin of all the system of nature be explained by means of the forces that we can observe in our own times? This is what is derived from the ideological position —expressed by Carl Sagan in the Cosmos series— that «the Cosmos is all that there has been, is or will be».
According to materialism, the basic phenomena and processes found in a system are the same ones as those that gave it its origin. "All is matter and movement". The argument of materialists seems to be that the properties of the systems explain the origin of the system. Rather, what comes from the exam of the forces that act in nature, in the operation of its systems which follow a CHAIN OF CAUSES and EFFECTS in the natural system, is that they are INCOMPETENT and qualitatively different of what is necessary to ORIGINATE the said system.
When performing an analysis of the facts, what is observed is that the properties of the system proceed from the design of the system. The origin of a system must be governed by a deliberate plan, with the application of energy directed by an information which applies the plan for the constitution of this organized system.
Stages and actors
Physics and chemistry are spheres of activity of the uniformity of the law of cause and effect —in biology we have an added magnitude. To pass from physicochemical systems to biological systems the need arises to SELECT the components [concept of Maxwell's demon], and for this it is necessary that an intelligent agent has INFORMATION upon which to act deliberately so as to embody DYNAMIC systems —away from the equilibrium to which physicochemical systems tend, and with a necessary specified complexity beyond (a) all possibility of chance or (b) of the uniform operation of natural law.
Thus, we have a background or stage, a physical-chemical universe where we have evidence of a uniform operation of cause and effect. And it must be said that this same universe gives evidence of design due to the absolute improbability of its structure, which requires «fine tuning», as it is shown by González and Richards in their book The Privileged Planet (see sidebar). But against the background of this universe and of these operations ruled by physical and chemical laws, the extrinsic operation of an informational activity can be detected by which the biological structures have acquired forms and functions which they would never have acquired by the uniform operation pf the said laws, but which require an intelligence to select for this purpose. This Intelligence is made evident in this way, and this both from the most direct intuition as under the most demanding criteria of a conceptual and mathematical analysis, as is shown by Dembski with his filter to ensure the presence of a design, of a deliberate purpose, in the making of an object or in the occurrence of an event, which provides the tool to establish a rigorous distinction between a true design, on the one hand, and a possible or certain happenstance. See the recommended books by Dembski, and also of Woodward, in the sidebar.
The role of chance in Chemical systems
“Throwing dice” in a chemical system will introduce irrelevant differences in that chemical system, changes in it, but it will not transform it upward into an integrated biological system, which belongs to another ontogenic nature.
Throwing dice can only bring out the potentiality already present in a dice, it cannot go beyond.
And giving more space and more time?
A bigger sphere and a longer time may in theory increase the chances that a hormone and its receptor may appear by chance —but it will also mean that their appearance by chance will be much more apart in space and in time. They will certainly dissolve by much more probable processes before they have the slightest chance to meet. Therefore, the theoretical increase of the scopes of space and time will not increase at all the probabilities of the chance occurrence of an integrated biological structure.
About science – its origin and role
Science used to be that enterprise of man to study the works of God, that is, the universe in its totality and in each of its parts. Its workings and interrelationships. Its cause and effect relationships. 1) To follow God’s thoughts after Him, 2) To fulfil His mandate of dominion as His stewards and beneficiaries. It was not a search for materialistic explanations of the origin of the Universe, but a search for the interrelationships of the matter-energy phenomena in God’s created and ordered universe. The search has revealed now that the created order includes matter / energy (physics, chemistry) and information / information treatment mechanisms (biology).
A word to Christians
"Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth."

(John 11:43-44).
If God should operate only through natural processes and laws, the resurrection would be effectively IMPOSSIBLE, because it is something diametrically opposite to all the tendency of the natural processes. In fact, the theological positions of the so-called "modernism" and of dialectic theology deny the reality of resurrection and the "prodigies and miracles" of the Scriptures. At most, from these perspectives, they would serve as didactic "myths", but they would not be at all realities that happened in time and in space.
However, this position is not "modern" at all. We find it already in Plato, Galen and many other Greek naturalistic philosophers.
For instance, the celebrated physician Galen (130-201 A.D.), who spoke against the Genesis record in the following words:
“It is precisely this point in which our own opinion and that of Plato and of the other Greeks who follow the right method in natural science differ from the position taken up by Moses. For the latter it seems enough to say that God simply willed the arrangement of matter and it was presently arranged in due order; for he believes everything to be possible with God, even should he wish to make a bull or a horse out of ashes. We, however, do not hold this; we say that certain things are impossible by nature and that God does not even attempt such things at all but that he [sic] chooses the best out of the possibility of becoming.”

On the usefulness of
the parts of the body,
Paul had to confront all this already, amongst other passages in 1 Corinthians 15. The fundamental factor is: The power of God that has wrought in Creation, which has intervened in history and which shall be manifested bringing His kingdom in.
It is obvious that a consistent reading of the Scriptures leads to a rejection of Naturalism as a limiting concept to the special actions of God in Creation and in His interventions in the History of Revelation.

Santiago Escuain

On the specific but most important question of the present state of the research on the Origin of Life, we recommend reading The Last Testament of Leslie Orgel, just published.