Tag Archives: evolution

Why evolution can’t save you – but Jesus can

John C. Sanford is one of the world’s premier plant geneticists.  A research scientist at Cornell University since 1980,  he co-invented the gene gun which is widely used in genetic engineering of plants.

Sanford began his career as an atheist and militant evolutionist, but his conversion to Christ initiated a process of reflection which eventually led him to re-examine all his presuppositions about science.  A few years ago, Sanford published a ground-breaking work (1, 2, 3) arguing forcefully that mutations in the human genome inevitably lead downhill, and that the “Primary Axiom” of evolutionary theory (that life is the result of mutations and natural selection) is demonstrably false.

Sanford is convinced that there is no way that the evolutionary process could have led to life as we know it.  There is only one reasonable conclusion that could be drawn by an objective observer : we were made by a Designer.

Even though advances in agriculture, medicine and sanitation have led to overall improvements in human health in the past couple of generations, Sanford shows that over time, as mutations increase, there will inevitably be more cancer, more birth defects, and shortened lifespans. His model, which predicts the degeneration of the genome over time, perfectly fits the Biblical narrative of decreasing lifespans and increasing pain and suffering following the sin of Adam and Eve.

This might not sound like good news. However, if the Titanic is going down, you’d want to know where the lifeboats are. Sanford argues that the evidence from science points us to our need for a Saviour, and declares that Jesus is our lifeboat, our way of escape from a dying creation. In his own words, ” … Jesus is our hope … He gave us life in the first place—so He can give us new life today. He made heaven and earth in the first place—so He can make a new heaven and earth in the future”.



The parable of Steve Jobs and the two iPhones

Once upon a time two iPhones were having a chat. It went something like this.

Phone #1 :  “I wonder how we got here?  We are so amazing, I think someone very smart – even smarter and more amazing than us – must have made us. ”

Phone #2 :  “No, I don’t believe that.  That’s just a fairy tale.  Don’t you know that there used to be other, simpler Apple devices,  not nearly as amazing as we are?  The landscape is littered with them.  No-one made us.  I think we must have evolved from a more primitive species of Apple.”

Phone #1 :  “No way, phone.  I’m way too amazing to have just happened by accident.  I think that human they call Steve Jobs must be responsible.  They say he started the whole Apple thing in the first place.  I’ve heard he’s a creative genius.  Nothing as amazing as us could have happened just by chance.  I think Steve Jobs must have designed us for some purpose.  Maybe we were made for him to enjoy. ”

Phone #2 :  “Steve Jobs?  Haven’t you heard that he’s dead?  No-one believes in him anymore.  I tell you, phone, you got here by accident – pure chance.  One day, a long long time ago, all the components for the first Apple device were just swimming around in a component soup, and there was a big explosion, and presto – the very first Mac just appeared, all by itself.  And that’s where it all started.  Then gradually they started changing, all by themselves, and then other forms of Apple devices began to emerge.  And eventually the first iPod crawled out of the slime onto land, and after that came the iPhone.  No-one made you.  I tell you, Steve Jobs never existed.  You just happened.  Get used to it.  You have no creator and no purpose.  Steve Jobs is just a myth.”

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For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20, NIV


Beyond Reason

Beyond Reason.

Margaret Trudeau wrote a memoir by this title in 1979, and in 2009 Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro wrote about the art of negotiation in a work by the same title.

Both books were best-sellers, but when I hear the expression beyond reason, I don’t think of either of them, nor the talk show by the same title.  To me, the phrase beyond reason suggests one of two things – either behaviour that is unreasonable and therefore hard to accept (“it’s beyond reason the way he carries on”), or a belief that is unsupported by reason and therefore unconvincing (“I can’t imagine that Jim still believes in Santa Claus at age 29 – it’s beyond reason“).

In this post, I am not going to get cranky about anyone’s unreasonable behaviour.  Rather, I want to focus on one very popular belief that I consider to be beyond reason, even though it is held by many seemingly rational people.  I am referring to the increasingly common belief that life on earth was not created by some supernatural intelligence, but “just happened”.  I was exposed to this belief in university and accepted it for a time, thinking it was undeniable because it had been proven by science.   I have since given the matter a lot of consideration and have concluded that this common conviction is in reality totally unfounded, and that far from being based on reason it is in fact quite unreasonable.

I realize, of course, that by definition beliefs about the origins of life are unprovable.  By its own standards, operational science can have nothing conclusive to say about such matters.  From a scientific perspective, the best we can do is talk about possibilities and probabilities, because no-one was there to observe what actually happened.

So let’s stick to possibilities and probabilities.

Today I did a Google search on “What do cells do”.  My first hit was a very informative site from the British Science Museum.  In it, I found this revealing description of just one of the functions of living cells
( How do cells make proteins )

Proteins are large, complex molecules, which all your cells are making continuously. Each protein is made up of many amino acids which must join together in the correct order for the protein to work properly. Imagine a car assembly line: to end up with a working car, the workers must know when and where to add each part. Likewise, the cell needs a set of commands for making proteins. This instruction manual is in your genes – found in the cell nucleus. 

This is just one of the many intricate processes that are going on constantly inside each living cell. I studied introductory biology in university almost 40 years ago.  Since then, what is known about cellular biology has increased greatly, but even what was known at that time was enough to amaze me. I was in awe of the complexity and level of organization involved in the structure and function of even the simplest living cells.  Yet, the lecturer was clearly hostile to Christianity and all forms of theism, and openly mocked any suggestion that such wonders might have originated from the hand of a Creator.  No, he insisted, any reasonable person would agree that they arose purely by natural processes.   Such confidence seems more like an article of faith than a scientifically-based conclusion.  It makes me wonder who is being unreasonable.

It’s a well-known fact of cellular biology that cells can only come from other living cells.  No scientist has ever observed, or been able to reproduce, the spontaneous generation of a living cell from inert chemicals.  So how did the first living cell arise?  The popular site How Stuff Works addresses this issue in an article entitled Where did the first living cell come from.  Despite being written with a clear evolutionary bias, the article still contains the surprising admission that no-one really knows how the first living cell could have arisen “spontaneously out of the inert chemicals of Planet Earth perhaps 4 billion years ago“.  Yet, the author assures us, one day science will find the answer.   Really?

I work in the field of information technology, writing PL/SQL code to implement business logic in Oracle database systems.  Someone had to create the PL/SQL engine that I use to write and compile my code.  Someone else had to design the core Oracle database engine and the SQL language on which the PL/SQL language is built.  Someone else had to design the C programming language in which most of Oracle’s core components are written.  Someone else had to come up with the basic binary logic that makes all computer languages possible.  And that’s only a small part of what is required for me to do my work.  There are layers upon layers of complex systems and sub-systems underlying every line of code that I write.  But even given the best tools to work with, if I blindly hit keys on my computer keyboard, my code would not be very good – in fact it wouldn’t work at all.  I have to apply structured reasoning and creative intelligence to the process of coding, otherwise I come up with nothing but a useless mess.

There is far greater complexity programmed into even the simplest living cell than what is contained in any computer program that I could ever hope to write.  Faced with this undeniable reality, an unbiased, unprejudiced observer could draw only one conclusion.  There must have been some creative intelligence involved in the process.   This is not provable, of course, but it is the only reasonable conclusion in light of the available evidence.  In fact, we can go farther and assert that it is beyond reason to suppose it all just happened by chance, spontaneously.

Francis Crick, the man who won the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the structure of DNA, and a self-proclaimed atheist, made this startlingly frank admission :

An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going  ( Crick, F., Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981, p. 88 )

Evolutionists typically scoff at Bible stories that include miraculous elements, such as the account of the virgin birth of Christ.  David White (Single Cell Irony, Creation 32(3):20, June 2010), has cogently pointed out that it really takes no more faith to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus than to believe that the first living cell could have arisen spontaneously.  After all, when considering the feasibility of the virgin birth, it is really only the origin of the first embryonic cell of Jesus that is at issue.  The first fertilized cell in a human embryo contains the entire human genome – all the information required to give rise to a fully-functioning human being.  Once this first cell was formed, Jesus’ embryo would have grown through natural processes, with no further miraculous intervention.  The Bible agrees with this statement, clearly indicating that it was only Jesus’ conception that was miraculous, initiated by the Holy Spirit.

While the thought of a miraculous conception of a fertilized human embryo may seem far-fetched to someone predisposed to believe that supernatural events cannot occur, consider for a moment.  Is it really any harder to believe that God could miraculously fertilize an already-existing egg inside Mary’s womb (an environment perfectly designed and suited for such a feat), thus creating the first embryonic cell that gave rise to Jesus, than to believe that the first living cell on earth arose spontaneously out of chemical soup in circumstances that “just happened” to be perfectly suited for its survival, growth and reproduction?

Yet, oddly, it is creationists who are mocked by evolutionists and criticized for believing in miracles.   It’s beyond reason … seems they must have a hidden agenda, no?

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  (Romans 1:20-21, NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  (John 1:1-5, NIV)


Circle of life?

Recently several of my friends and colleagues have lost loved ones.  My own father and mother died in 2007 and 2008, and my wife’s parents are in their upper 80s and dealing with diminished capacities.  All of this has prompted me to reflect again on life, death, and eternity.

As we move from childlike innocence to adulthood, all of us have to learn to reckon with events over which we have little or no control, events that threaten our sense of order.  When a loved one dies, your country is suddenly plunged into war, you lose your job and cannot pay your bills, or your health is threatened, it can feel as though your life is sliding from order to chaos.

From what I can observe, our dog Cookie doesn’t spend much time worrying about why things are the way they are, or what will happen to her tomorrow.  But humans are different from dogs – we have a built-in drive to make sense of life in some way.  So, we try to come up with explanations that comfort us and give meaning to our lives.

One very common way of coping with the reality of aging, illness and death is to see them as simply an inevitable part of “the circle of life”.  We live; we grow old; we die.  The ancient Greeks added the belief that death was a welcome release for the soul, which they saw as having been trapped for a time in the physical realm.  In this view, death is not an enemy, not something to be feared or even resisted, but simply a natural and even welcome part of the life process.  All living things come from the earth and must go back to the earth; when your time comes, you die, and your soul goes to some sort of (hopefully friendly) afterworld.

This way of thinking is quite ancient but still very popular today.  It has the appearance of wisdom, and with the addition of a belief in heaven it can even masquerade as a Christian outlook.  But although there are elements of truth and wisdom in this way of looking at life, at its core are two beliefs that are totally contrary to Christian faith: the view that death in its proper time is a friend, not an enemy; and the view that we all automatically go to some state of bliss after we die.

In contrast, the Bible clearly portrays death as an enemy, not a friend.  In Biblical thinking, humans were made for an unbroken relationship with God, and death is an unwelcome intruder, the tragic consequence of our first parents’ decision to turn away from God towards independence.  It is true that believers in the risen Christ do not need to fear death; but that’s not because death is our friend, it’s because Jesus has risen from the dead to conquer our enemy.

But why does this matter?  Does it make a difference what you believe about such things?

Yes it does.  Beliefs have consequences.   If humans are just souls trapped inside bodies for a while, then by killing someone you are really doing him a favour.  Then Hitler was doing those 6 million Jews a favour by incinerating them; he was just liberating their souls from their bodies.  You can see where that type of thinking leads – abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide all become acceptable and even compassionate choices.   If, on the other hand, we were  made for an eternal purpose and we have an eternal destiny in a renewed and restored earth,  then each human life has eternal value.  This has huge consequences both for how I conduct my own life and the degree of respect with which I treat the lives of others.

Probably all of us who have watched a loved one die slowly can relate at some level to the idea of death as a friend.  I have to admit that I was relieved when my mother died, because I felt she had suffered long enough, and I was confident that she was going into the presence of the Lord.   I am so thankful that she met her Redeemer before she died and that she is in His presence today.  However, I did not see her death as simply a natural culmination of her life, but rather as an expression of humanity’s broken condition and our need for a Redeemer; and while I was in agreement with the family decision to let her die without trying to bring her back to life artificially, I could never have agreed to any form of euthanasia because I do not believe that her life was mine to end.

I believe that my life is headed somewhere – it is a journey with a destination, not a circle.  I believe that Jesus rose from the dead to set me free from the power of death and the fear of death, and that regardless of what trials I may face in my life,  I have a glorious destiny in a renewed heaven and earth.  I also believe that I will one day face the one who made me and redeemed me and give an account for what I have done with my life while I am on this earth.  I’m thankful that I don’t need to fear judgment, since Jesus has paid the price for my sins, but I want to live in a way that brings joy to the One who suffered so much for me.

Life is not a circle but a journey with a destination.  All of us are headed somewhere.  Whether we are headed for glory or misery depends on our response to the One who gave His all for our freedom.  The price has been paid, and the gift of eternal life has been purchased for us, at an incredibly high price – the lifeblood of the only truly pure man who ever lived.  What we do with that gift determines our eternal destiny.  The value we place on the lives of others – especially the weak and helpless – says much about the value we assign to His sacrifice.

Over to you …