Oh, for the Love of God!

LoveOfGodby Deana Chadwell6/6/16
Our society worships many gods and we have built many temples – government buildings, department stores, movie theaters, sports arenas, bars, and universities, to name a few. We bow down to the human body, to sex, to technology, to inebriation, to money, to science.

We expect a great deal from our gods – these gods that we’ve invented. We expect pleasure, which we confuse with happiness. We expect security, amusement, excitement, status, and we expect answers to our questions. We look to the god of science for that.

Yet science can explain very little and that is disappointing to a generation of materialists. If all that is, is merely matter, then science should be able to answer all our questions. If there is no God, in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word, and no supernatural forces operate in this universe, then science should be able to formulate hypotheses, construct experiments, repeat those experiments with similar results and, either adjust the initial assumptions, or conclude they were correct to begin with. It should be doable. But it’s not.

Let’s look at some of the marvels of this world that science can’t wrap itself around:

Hummingbirds and owls, for instance. Their specific, fine-tuned attributes are so complex, so specifically designed for those species that random mutation seems really silly explanation. The owl can fly in almost absolute silence – something no other bird can do – and science can’t explain it. The hummingbird is able to vary its metabolic rate drastically, can rotate its wings in a helicopter hover, and retract its long insect-seeking tongue into a channel that winds around its skull. How could that have happened by guess and by golly?

Butterflies are another good example. No one knows what goes on in that chrysalis soup let alone how it happens. What survival of the fittest advantage does that peculiar arrangement provide? How do those chemicals know how and when to re-arrange themselves in that miraculous metamorphosis? Nor do we know how the Monarch manages its 6,000-mile migration that only happens once every other generation.

Which brings up migration in general — how do animals, sans GPS or maps or directions find their way each year to the same place? Whether we speak of Canadian geese or Coho salmon, we’re baffled by the enormity of the task of moving entire populations enormous distances with no clear mechanism for so doing. And they always arrive on time.

And what’s with Fibonacci and his amazing number sequence that pops up everywhere in nature? Explanation please.

Those are just a few of the little things that stump science. What about the BIG questions that plague us all?

I started asking these questions in earnest decades ago when I first read Virginia Woolf’s wonderful essay, The Death of the Moth. It’s a short descriptive piece that paints a wistful picture of a moth fluttering around a lamp just before it dies. The perplexing part of the essay is that the moth dead appears to be exactly like the moth alive, but life is gone. So what is life? We know it has something to do with movement, if nothing more than lungs sucking in air. It has something to do with brain waves, electrical impulses, but beyond that a dead person appears to be all there and yet totally different than when he was alive. What is that difference? Is there a “ghost in the machine?” Apparently, but science has no answer for us.

Which brings up the question of mind. What is that? We don’t know how the brain works exactly. We have metaphors we use to talk about that clear, but incomprehensible difference; my brain is an organ I have; my mind is Me and I am different from everyone else. Somewhere lodged in that material brain is a strong sensation of ethereal self – that ghost in the machine again. C.S. Lewis once wrote: You don’t have a soul: you are a soul. You have a body. That dichotomy is black and white, and yet scientifically inexplicable.

And science has no clue about what’s going on when we sleep. We know that we fall apart if we don’t, and we feel a lot better when we do. But science, so far, hasn’t been able to explain it any better than that. We dream when we sleep and though many theories about that phenomenon exist, none are any more than theories. Pharaoh found his dreams important and accurately predictive, but most of us find them either amusing or disturbing. I still have those awful college dreams where I show up finally on the last day of class unprepared for the exam. That never happened; I was a diligent student, but the dream haunts me, and haunts many who’ve slogged through higher education. And science can’t tell us why, let alone how our brains run those movies in our sleeping heads.

Even the hard sciences come up empty when push comes to shove. Ask a physicist to tell you what gravity is. We know it is some exquisitely tuned force that’s essential to all the workings of the universe, but that’s about it. We don’t know the cause, the source, nor can we explain its precision. As I age I feel its force more keenly, but it is constant and dependable. I can’t look down at my bathroom scales and complain that gravity is obviously growing stronger. It doesn’t do that, but we don’t know why.

Science can’t explain the existence of music. It doesn’t in any measurable way improve our survivability as a species – though we do know that those who can and do play musical instruments sport brains that are more efficient than those who don’t. Science can’t explain the other arts, either, though we know from cave paintings that man had that sophisticated ability early on in human history. And science cannot explain our amazement, joy, and appreciation for the artistic accomplishments of others. Why does the Tchaikovsky violin concerto make me cry? I did likewise when I stumbled across the Degas bronze of the dancer standing demurely in her own little room at the Metropolitan. I cried – with joy at the realization that someone else in this world had once loved dance as I did? Partly, but that wasn’t all of it. Can any scientist confidently explain that completely in terms of chemical reactions and electrical charges? No.

Nor can science explain evil. Good is somewhat understandable in that the survival of the species is dependent to a certain extent on us behaving ourselves. But evil – the desire to cause pain to others just for the fun of it – makes no evolutionary sense. Competition makes sense, but not cruel, violent, damaging domination. So why does it exist? Is it buried in our DNA? How so?  We don’t know. Nor can we explain what makes some people willing to give up everything for someone else. Altruism isn’t very evolutionary either.

And yet, science is worshipped like the Oracle at Delphi. All is science. God is not dead, but mankind is getting good at shutting Him out of all of our understandings. But when we do that we have to live in an artless vacuum; we have to put up with answerless questions – questions that urgently need resolutions – questions about our purpose, our future, our social decisions. Science is a wonderful tool for appreciating the world God has made, but it is a lousy substitute for Him — science has knows nothing of love.

Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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7 Responses to Oh, for the Love of God!

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Deana, that was a very thoughtful essay, well worth reading.

    I believe the a driving force of the Left is the attempt to fill the endless void which remains when God is rejected. The vain quest for meaning leads to many paths, all of which are dead-ends.

  2. oldguy says:

    The answer to is there a God is simple-There is a God because there is a me. Every human should know this intrinsically.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Yet science can explain very little and that is disappointing to a generation of materialists. If all that is, is merely matter, then science should be able to answer all our questions. If there is no God, in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word, and no supernatural forces operate in this universe, then science should be able to formulate hypotheses, construct experiments, repeat those experiments with similar results and, either adjust the initial assumptions, or conclude they were correct to begin with. It should be doable. But it’s not.

    That’s a great thought, Deana. I was having a conversation with a well-indoctrinated Progressive not too long ago. I was pointing out the threshold problem (such as irreducible complexity) that the Neo-Darwinian theory couldn’t address. Point mutations of an existing biological clockworks can, and does, obviously happen. But how do you get that complex clockworks to begin with? What about the problem of 100-chain (and longer) proteins for which there is no evolutionary path…you either somehow get the finished protein randomly or you don’t. And Douglas Axe, among others, has shown the statistical improbability of even one 100-chain protein spontaneously developing let alone the minimum of 300 or so (and all at one time, not gradually) needed for a viable organism (leaving out entirely the complex mechanisms needed for storing and later retrieving this information).

    Life is ultimately an information problem. Gradualism is but a rhetorical trick. It solves nothing to say “Things evolved.” You have to show, at least in the case of Neo-Darwinism, how something complex can be constructed using random mutations. And there is not one paper in existence that shows how a biological feature evolved. No one can explain how the eye evolved. All they can do is point to simplistic charts that substitute for an actual explanation. In effect, all they have, as David Berlinski noted, is anecdotes.

    Still, I admit that the origin of life remains a mystery. I’m honestly intrigued by this subject. Design is clearly a distinct possibility. But there are so many other facets that reveal arbitrariness rather than design. I was listening to NPR yesterday (it just happens to be on my favorite jazz station and sometimes I listen in). They were talking with the anti-Christ (I mean Jimmy Carter) about the eradication of some nasty worm that infects people in Africa (he can make himself useful when not involved in politics). The program’s libtard presenter outlined the true nastiness of this worm. It’s several inches, if not feet, long and devilish to remove from the body once infected. And it burns. It creates such a feeling of heat that people seek relief by dipping themselves in the river, thus completing the life cycle of the worm which then hatches its eggs back into the river to infect someone (or something) else.

    This is the Designer’s plan? So I’m not totally unsympathetic to arguments on both sides. I would say, roughly speaking, that the basics of biology were designed, and designed specifically to evolve….quite randomly, even brutally, in some cases. Whether any historical “saltation-like” input occurred (a Designer creating new species willy nilly) is unknown but is consistent with the fossil record which does not show gradualism but instead shows species entering the fossil record, changing very little over the long term, and then going extinct.

    On the other hand, it is absolutely true that things have evolved if only by defining evolution as “change over time.” Clearly animal forms are different, and likely far more complex, today than the wondrous menagerie we see in the Cambrian fossils of 542 million years ago.

    Lots of mysteries remain, not only in regards to the origin of life but so many other things (including gravity, as Deana noted). But in regards to life, it is on the face of it a ridiculous theory that you could, say, (hope our own techie Jon is listening) start out with a simple sorting algorithm (whose origin we would concede, for sake of argument, as an act of random chance) and end up with a complex operating system such as Windows or Mac OSX just by randomly poking bits. The requirement of Neo-Darwinism is that each point mutation must add some function (without breaking anything) and also that it can’t look ahead so that somehow various random mutations all add up to some new function. Try randomly changing bits in Microsoft Word and see if you can change it to Adobe Photoshop, a relatively trivial task compared to the biological differences (and complexity) that exists in animal life. Take a billion years. Take a trillion years. Is it even logical to suppose it is possible?

    It’s not unreasonable that the burden of proof be on anyone supposing such a prima facie improbable theory. But I was told by my Progressive friend that I simply lacked the imagination to understand what could be done if enough time was involved. But that is no answer. That is a religious dogma, plain and simple. It was rhetoric over reality.

    And those are the times we live in. Whether it is transgenderism wherein one’s rhetoric (self-label) trumps reality or one’s grandiosity of “saving the planet,” the spirit of the times is whatever you say can be. We’ve all turned into little tyrants a la Yul Brynner in “The Ten Commandments” who oft repeated, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

    In John 1:1 it says “In the beginning was the Word,” meaning, one presumes, that the entire universe was the result of Divine rhetoric of some kind, form, and power unimaginable to us. And yet, as difficult of a concept as God is in this materialist/atheist/hedonist culture, it is a rhetoric that seems far more plausible (we are here, after all) than the fantastical, ego-based rhetoric of all the little gods running around out there declaring absurd things that we are then supposedly required to believe and validate.

    I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite British comedies, Red Dwarf. In the episode, “Confidence and Paranoia,” Dave Lister is split (much like Captain Kirk in “The Enemy Within”) into his paranoid self and his full-of-confidence self, although he remains as his human self to observe and interact with both personified aspects. At one point Lister is outside the spaceship with his Confidence self. For some reason, his Confidence self tells Dave Lister that he doesn’t need his space suit and that “Hey…oxygen is for losers.” (Sounds like a Trumpism. And the Confidence character is, amusingly, played as an American.)

    I could have written all this in response to Glenn’s splendid article. (Welcome back, Glenn). Nothing is more sacred or common-sensical in today’s Zeitgeist than the idea that “Oxygen is for losers.” We are all to write our own tickets from scratch. We are to be anything and to do anything, just by saying it. The American Dream — where the sky being the limits was a function of effort and opportunity — has morphed into The American Rhetoric where just saying a thing somehow makes it so (validated by the absurdity of the existence of all three presidential candidates). Instead of having the right to profit from our efforts we now have the right to have any rhetoric we spout go unquestioned and be respected…unless, of course, such rhetoric contains even a hint of the need for restraint, boundaries, natural limitations, objective morality, or a primary source above and prior to our own egos.

  4. FredB says:

    Terrific essay. I’ve read elsewhere that without the existence of certain enzymes and proteins in the cell, which repair and reassemble DNA as and when necessary, no living creature would possibly exist (much less evolve). Mere happenstance? I think not.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Here are a couple animations (vastly simplified, I believe…even so they are amazing): Animation One. Animation Two.

      Life is a vast information system and machine. It’s far more highly automated, integrated, adaptable, and complex than anything man has achieved, and we have done some fancy programming/hardware of our own. I’m typing on some of that right now.

      There’s probably no middle ground or third way. And I’m not a magical “third way” thinker (which tends to be a property of the Left). There is either atheism (materialism) or theism (design). There isn’t much room in between. The only caveat I have is that design does not imply that any particular revealed religion is true. Design merely suggests that revealed religion is more plausible than a completely materialistic, godless universe.

      One’s religion tends to focus or limit what one can see. The rather fundamentalist religion of naturalism/materialism (all that ever was or will be is the material, with all results being mere accidents). This is not a philosophy in any way bolstered by actual fact. But Darwinism/atheism/materialism/naturalism is a religious-like commitment, probably as zealous and tyrannical (if not yet violent) as Islam.

      The blinkered vision of materialists/atheists miss the crucial point that life is a function of information, not of the material constituents that carry that information. The analogy that either Jonathan Wells or Stephen Meyer makes is that materialists look at a black-and-white newspaper page and call the words and photos on it a function of the ink. Explaining the properties and chemistry of ink is all it takes to explain the newspaper page, in their view. Someone with a more realistic look at life understands that it’s not the substance of the ink that matters (blood would work as well….or Morse code…or Braille…or signal flags). It’s the information conveyed by the constituent parts…which just happen to be amino acids, proteins, DNA, etc.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        My high-school physics teacher had an interesting item on his classroom wall on this subject. It involved some mice living inside a piano that some celestial player kept playing. Daring mice would occasionally move far enough to see the physical explanation for the sounds — but they never got far enough to see the player.

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