Of Streetlights And Clouds

I found that as I moved towards adulthood that I started to trade my wonderment for God’s creation for the knowledge that I gained about the world God has created around us.

The sensation of this process was akin to coming to a specific knowledge of how a certain magic trick was performed. Suddenly the wonderment is gone. I feel like I need to work harder in life to retain my sense of wonderment, curiosity, and amazement of God’s creation around us. It speaks volumes of who He is.

Kids are the best at trying to explain God’s world around us. Often their innocent explanations are something that we as parents smile at in our hearts as we ponder their view of the world. My son shared with us when he was six years old that he had concluded that the evening fog that would move into our area each night, and then retreat in the morning, was generated nightly from the top of streetlight poles as everyone slept. Even as an adult he still doesn’t recall how he came to this insightful conclusion. But it was funny nonetheless.

At times I take great personal joy in viewing the world around me with such a simplistic perspective. The other night I stepped outside to an unusually clear night. I could see the stars scattered about, dotting the night sky; each pinpoint of light shining it’s way toward our humble planet. The scene reminded me of a passage from the Psalms:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.”  (Psalm 19:1-4)

The perfect placement and precise operation of all the planetary bodies that taken together represent the creative genius of our Heavenly Father. Indeed I was humbled as I stood there and observed the night sky. It is the most beautiful masterpiece of creation and it shows up every night. I thought to myself how much more I need to stop at times and really pause to appreciate the amazing world that God has created for us.

I hope that after you read this that you might take a moment tonight, step outside and look up into the night sky and enjoy the greatest light show ever made. If you miss out tonight, I guarantee that there will be another show tomorrow.

Four Reasons to Test This Assumption

Mythology:  The study of myths of a particular group or culture, ideas that are believed by many people but that are not true (Merriam-Webster)

Recently my son, a freshman in a public high school, shared that they were studying Greek mythology in his English class. The teacher was already aware of my son’s faith in Jesus Christ from prior conversations, a fact that he does not hide, nor does he push upon others, he simply lives out his faith by his actions and words.

He related that in due course, a student raised his hand during a discussion time, and asked the teacher about the origins of life. She responded by first looking to my son for a second, then addressing the class, that “according to Christian ‘mythology’ that everything was created by a Christian God.” And then she went on to talk about the views of the Greek gods.

It was interesting that her first go-to response was not “I don’t know” or “Here is how the Greeks perceived the origin of life, “given they were on the topic of Greek mythology, or “Here is what Buddha says” or how Islam views this topic, rather her comment was immediately and specifically directed towards reducing the Christian scriptural account of creation to the level of a myth with no further explanation.

Given that myths, by definition are not true, the message was clear, for those in the English class that believe in the Christian scriptures, it’s all a myth. My son immediately detected the inference that the intelligence of those that believe such things might also be in question.

But is it? Is such a simplistic view really reality? Or is the instructor really doing nothing more than introducing her personal views as fact to her class? Her statements to a class of high school freshman will not likely be challenged by any student, therefore, when left unchallenged from a critical thinking perspective; many students will leave the class thinking that what they heard must be fact.

Sadly, it seems to me, that Americans in general, and many young people in particular, seem to have lost the skills of critical thinking. Instead, we seem to be more likely to accept sound bites and internet posts as “facts,” without really slowing down to think about whether or not the statement we just heard or read is really supportable.

For years, science has used a technique that involves something known as hypothesis testing to validate tentative concepts or ideas.

A hypothesis is a proposal that is intended to explain a given observation or statement.  Because it is tentative in nature, and until it can be fully vetted, such an idea will remain a hypothesis. A more fully vetted idea, for which there are no clear observable objections, will often be moved to a new level, that of a theory.

If contrary data can be presented in the face of such a hypothesis or a theory, then the researcher must go back and revisit their hypothesis or theory, to modify it to reflect the new data. Otherwise they would need to retract their theory or idea altogether and go back to the drawing board.

Such testing requires that we take a moment and write up our hypothesis in a formal manner.

A hypothesis test takes the following form:

Null Hypothesis: (HO) What I am trying to disprove, there is no difference, status quo.

Alternative Hypothesis: (HA) What I am trying to prove, there is a difference.

Together, HA and HO cover all the possibilities.

Logically, it is easier to disprove something than it is to prove it.  Therefore, the claim to be tested appears as HO.  We can reject HO or fail to reject it.   We can never accept it.

One of these hypotheses represents reality, with respect to the validity of creation as described by Christian scriptures, and the other does not.

In our specific example, we might write up our hypothesis test as follows:

Null Hypothesis (HO): The Scriptural Account of Creation is a myth, it’s not true.

Or

Alternative Hypothesis (HA):  We have failed to prove that the Scriptural account of creation is not true, therefore there is a possibility that the account of creation is true, and must be considered in our reality.

After creating our hypothesis statements, we need to see if we can find objective evidence that would either reject or fail to reject the Null Hypothesis.

We’ll look at several scientific facts and then compare our facts to what the scriptures share about the origins of life.

Are science and the scriptures consistent in anyway, or are they completely disconnected?

Four points we know about the origin of life through modern science:

  1. We know that the universe is not ageless. Both Dr. Edwin Hubble and Dr. Albert Einstein, using independent means, demonstrated that the universe came into existence at some point in time.
  2. We know from our laws of Physics that it is impossible for matter and energy to be created from nothing, using only a naturalistic process. Yet the universe was not always in existence, therefore there had to be a time in which there was no matter or energy, and somehow it came into being from nothing to something.
  3. We know that the fossil record only shows life in their final forms: We do not have a single case of a complete transitional form in the fossil record.  Dr. Stephen Jay Gould , an ardent Neo-Darwinist, shared that “The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils.”  -Stephen Jay Gould Davis, Percival, and Kenyon, Dean H. Of Pandas and People. Dallas: Haughton, 1993, p. 106-107.
  4. The DNA Enigma: Dr. Stephen Meyers leads us back to one of the most profound questions yet. If we see design in living organisms, which we clearly do, we must ask ourselves where the information came from for the design. DNA is not information, DNA simply stores the information needed to build a complete organism. What was the source for the original information? Think of DNA as a hard drive on a computer, and the information as the instructions stored on the hard drive. For example, I might store the information on how to bake a cake so that someone could read the information and bake a cake. But the information itself came from someone’s mind.  Someone thought intelligently about how to make a cake, they didn’t just randomly list the ingredients with the expectation that a cake would materialize. (Meyer, Stephen C. 2009. Signature in the Cell. New York, NY: Harper One.)

This is but a small list of what we understand about the origin of life from a scientific perspective. The question that still remains to be addressed: Are these scientific facts consistent with the account of creation as depicted by Christian scriptures?

What the Christian Scriptures share about the origin of life:

  1. The universe had a beginning, it is not ageless. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
  2. Matter and energy were “created.” God created the universe and all that is in it. Energy and matter had to be brought into existence via a supernatural process, meaning beyond the naturalistic laws that we know are in place today.
  3. Living organisms were initially created in their final form:  Repeatedly throughout the creation account, the scriptures use the phrase “according to their various kinds.”  There is no concept that suggests that organisms were created in a lower state, and then somehow developed into modern organisms that we see today.
  4. What we see in creation was created with intelligence and is not a product of unguided chance events. “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…” (Romans 1:20)  As the Apostle Paul states, evidence for intelligence in the design of organisms in our world is totally self-evident, and is clearly seen through the lens of common sense. Virtually every person can detect the difference between something that is random vs something that is designed.

We conclude then, even from this cursory review of the scientific data and the Christian scriptures, that the scientific facts are consistent with statements from the scriptures about the origin of life. Therefore, we must reject the Null Hypothesis (HO) that the accounts of creation in the scriptures are not true, and allow for the possibility that the scriptures offer a valid metaphysical explanation for the origin of life.

The teacher’s simplistic and absolute statement, that the Christian scriptures are a myth, thereby removing even the possibility that they may be true, should never have been shared in class to the students as a fact. This was clearly a statement of her personal opinion and is unsupported by the data.

In this case, she used assumptive language, which is one of the most dangerous forms of knowledge in our world today. Why? Because assumptions are often just “caught and brought” without an open, conscience dialog to talk about the evidence and the facts.