“I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord”

Scott Johnson of Powerline commented upon an article for “The Claremont Review of Books”. It was by David Gelernter: “Giving Up Darwin”.

Enjoyed reading the article. Let me try and combine this with another article: “Back Row America”, by Chris Arnade at “First Things”.

I have used a memory quote from George Gilder from a Wired article in 1999 that I have never been able to find online. The quote was elicited from Gilder as one of many who was asked about what changes we would see in the new century. He said there would be a cultural shift  of some kind as people realize that they had been lied to about the “fact” of evolution.

Lied to is pretty strong; but lets face it there is no foundation left to uphold evolution. When Francis Crick helped discover DNA he knew the gig was up. What does he believe instead of evolution? Life came from outer space; anything but God.

Welcome to the revolution David Gelernter. A little late; but great to have you on board. This incredible thinker has finally seen through the haze of Darwinian evolution to realize there is nothing there. It was nice that the work of Stephen Meyer had a lot to do with this transformation (they wanted to take away his doctorate because he gave them the right answers but didn’t believe them).

But, he doesn’t seem happy about it.

Let me get some quotes from “Giving Up Darwin”:

Darwinian evolution is a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory. Once it was a daring guess. Today it is basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview. Accepting the theory as settled truth—no more subject to debate than the earth being round or the sky blue or force being mass times acceleration—certifies that you are devoutly orthodox in your scientific views; which in turn is an essential first step towards being taken seriously in any part of modern intellectual life. But what if Darwin was wrong?

He then tells us how sad he is to lose this beautiful theory. Seems like only now is it described as a theory.

This is sad. It is no victory of any sort for religion. It is a defeat for human ingenuity. It means one less beautiful idea in our world, and one more hugely difficult and important problem back on mankind’s to-do list. But we each need to make our peace with the facts, and not try to make life on earth simpler than it really is.

Darwin’s Doubt (Stephen Meyer) is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact.

 

It does underline an obvious but important truth: Darwin’s mission was exactly to explain the flagrant appearance of design in nature.

I guess I am one of the “naifs”.

As for Biblical religion, it forces its way into the discussion although Meyer didn’t invite it, and neither did Darwin. Some have always been bothered by the harm Darwin is said to have done religion. His theory has been thought by some naïfs (fundamentalists as well as intellectuals) to have shown or alleged that the Bible is wrong, and Judeo-Christian religion bunk.

“one of the most important intellectual issues of modern times”…with this statement he is catching up with Gilder.

Fundamentalists and intellectuals might go on arguing these things forever. But normal people will want to come to grips with Meyer and the downfall of a beautiful idea. I will mention several of his arguments, one of them in (just a bit of) detail. This is one of the most important intellectual issues of modern times, and every thinking person has the right and duty to judge for himself.

 

But, as Berlinski points out, the fossil record shows the opposite: “representatives of separate phyla appearing first followed by lower-level diversification on those basic themes.” In general, “most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” The incremental development of new species is largely not there.

 

Darwin’s theory is simple to grasp; its simplicity is the heart of its brilliance and power. We all know that variation occurs naturally among individuals of the same type—white or black sheep, dove-gray versus off-white or pale beige pigeons, boring and sullen undergraduates versus charming, lissome ones. We all know that many variations have no effect on a creature’s prospects, but some do. A sheep born with extra-warm wool will presumably do better at surviving a rough Scottish winter than his normal-wooled friends. Such a sheep would be more likely than normal sheep to live long enough to mate, and pass on its superior trait to the next generation. Over millions of years, small good-for-survival variations accumulate, and eventually (says Darwin) you have a brand new species.

 

The advent of molecular biology made it possible to transform Darwinism into Neo-Darwinism. The new version explains (it doesn’t merely cite) natural variation, as the consequence of random change or mutation to the genetic information within cells that deal with reproduction. Those cells can pass genetic change onward to the next generation, thus changing—potentially—the future of the species and not just one individual’s career.

The engine that powers Neo-Darwinian evolution is pure chance and lots of time. By filling in the details of cellular life, molecular biology makes it possible to estimate the power of that simple mechanism. But what does generating new forms of life entail? Many biologists agree that generating a new shape of protein is the essence of it. Only if Neo-Darwinian evolution is creative enough to do that is it capable of creating new life-forms and pushing evolution forward.

 

Your task is to invent a new gene by mutation—by the accidental change of one codon to a different codon. You have two possible starting points for this attempt. You could mutate an existing gene, or mutate gibberish… If you tinker with a valid gene, you will almost certainly make it worse—to the point where its protein misfires and endangers (or kills) its organism—long before you start making it better…The mutated sequence can then be passed on to the next generation, where it can be mutated again. Thus mutations can accumulate on the sidelines without affecting the organism. But if you mutate your way to an actual, valid new gene, your new gene can create a new protein and thereby, potentially, play a role in evolution.

 

To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. It’s not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller. Axe puts them at 1 in 1077.

In other words: immense is so big, and tiny is so small, that neo-Darwinian evolution is—so far—a dead loss. Try to mutate your way from 150 links of gibberish to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million—you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done.

 

There are many other problems besides proteins. One of the most basic, and the last I’ll mention here, calls into question the whole idea of gene mutations driving macro-evolution—the emergence of new forms of organism, versus mere variation on existing forms.

To help create a brand new form of organism, a mutation must affect a gene that does its job early and controls the expression of other genes that come into play later on as the organism grows. But mutations to these early-acting “strategic” genes, which create the big body-plan changes required by macro-evolution, seem to be invariably fatal. They kill off the organism long before it can reproduce. This is common sense. Severely deformed creatures don’t ever seem fated to lead the way to glorious new forms of life. Instead, they die young.

 

Evidently there are a total of no examples in the literature of mutations that affect early development and the body plan as a whole and are not fatal.

 

Darwin would easily have understood that minor mutations are common but can’t create significant evolutionary change; major mutations are rare and fatal. It can hardly be surprising that the revolution in biological knowledge over the last half-century should call for a new understanding of the origin of species.

 

The exceptional intricacy of living things, and their elaborate mechanisms for fitting precisely into their natural surroundings, seemed to cry out for an intelligent designer long before molecular biology and biochemistry. Darwin’s theory, after all, is an attempt to explain “design without a designer,” according to evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala. An intelligent designer might seem more necessary than ever now that we understand so much cellular biology, and the impossibly long odds facing any attempt to design proteins by chance, or assemble the regulatory mechanisms that control the life cycle of a cell.

 

…suggests to Meyer that an intelligent designer must have been responsible. “Our uniform experience of cause and effect shows that intelligent design is the only known cause of the origin of large amounts of functionally specified digital information,” he writes. (“Digital” is confusing here; it only means information represented by a sequence of symbols.)

He still can’t quite get this “intelligent designer”. For a biblical scholar he shares no sense of the fall in the garden.

Granted, they might each have contributed genes to our common stockpile—but could hardly have done so in the most efficient way. What was his purpose? And why did he do such an awfully slipshod job? Why are we so disease prone, heartbreak prone, and so on? An intelligent designer makes perfect sense in the abstract. The real challenge is how to fit this designer into life as we know it. Intelligent design might well be the ultimate answer. But as a theory, it would seem to have a long way to go.

His conclusion:

I might, myself, expect to find the answer in a phenomenon that acts as if it were a new and (thus far) unknown force or field associated with consciousness…I have no evidence for this idea. It’s just the way biology seems to work.

Although Stephen Meyer’s book is a landmark in the intellectual history of Darwinism, the theory will be with us for a long time, exerting enormous cultural force. Darwin is no Newton…And Darwin’s intellectual daring will always be inspiring. The man will always be admired.

He now poses a final challenge. Whether biology will rise to this last one as well as it did to the first, when his theory upset every apple cart, remains to be seen. How cleanly and quickly can the field get over Darwin, and move on?—with due allowance for every Darwinist’s having to study all the evidence for himself? There is one of most important questions facing science in the 21st century.

Just David Glernter accepting a “truth”; although half heartingly, encourages me. I was also encouraged by Chris Arnade. In a world that seems so hostile to the “truths” of the gospel I am encouraged. Thus the title of the post.

I had read a few posts and reviews of “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America” by Chris Arnade. Since most of the reviewers were writing without that “gospel” knowledge that Andrew Klavan touches on in “Can We Believe”. They cannot discern or even see spiritual things. Chris Arnade is touching the spiritual and as the bible says is “groping” to find it.

I preached using some quotes from his article this last Wednesday. Here are the quotes I used:

That is where I met Stephon. We bonded over smoking weed, drinking, and making fun of the ­Bible-thumpers in the crew. Mostly that meant teasing Preacher Man, who was a minister and a custodian. He was the leader of a group of people who used their free time to pray. During our short breaks or when work got slow, he put on his tiny round glasses and read from the Bible to other workers who were sitting on bare mattresses, crammed into half-painted dorm rooms, or sitting on upturned buckets around a custodial closet.

When I look back now at Preacher Man and the others praying, I see people striving for dignity in a harsh world. I see mothers working minimum-wage jobs, trying to raise three children alone. I see a teenager fingering a small cross and a young woman abused by an addict father. I see Preacher Man living across the tracks in a beat-up shotgun shack, desperate to stay clean, desperate to make sense of a world that has given him little. Their faith may not be true, I tell myself, but it is useful.

Everyone I met there who was living homeless or battling an addiction held a deep faith. Street walking is stunningly dangerous work, and everyone has stories of being cut, attacked, and threatened, or stories of others who were killed. Everyone has to deal with the danger. Few work without a mix of heroin, Xanax, or crack. None without faith. “You know what kept me through all that? God. Whenever I got into the car, God got into the car with me.”

For many back row Americans, the only places that regularly treat them like humans are churches. The churches are everywhere, small churches that have come in and taken over a space and light it up on Sundays and Wednesdays. They walk inside the church, and immediately they meet people who get them. The preachers and congregants inside may preach to them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them. They have walked the walk and know the shit they are going through, not from a book, not from a movie, not from an article, not from a study, but from their own lives or the lives of their friends. They look like them, and they get them.

There are rules to follow if you join, but they don’t require having your paperwork in order or having proper ID. They don’t require getting grilled about this and that. They say, “Enter as you are,” letting forgiveness wash away a past that many want gone. You are welcome as long as you try. The churches understand the streets, understand everyone is a sinner and everyone fails. The rest of the world—the courts, the hospitals, the rehab clinics, the welfare office, police stations, and even some of the non­profits and schools (especially the universities that won’t even let you on campus without the police being called)—doesn’t understand that. That cold, secular world of the well-intentioned is a distant and judgmental thing.

The churches are also the way out of addiction, a way to end the cycle. The few success stories told on the streets are of relatives, friends, or spouses who found God, got with the discipline and order of a church, and moved away: “Princess met a decent man who was dedicated to the Scripture. She got straight, got God, and last we heard was on a farm upstate.” “Necee went to her grandmother’s and found God, and she now has her one-year chip.”

To the believers I met I would say, “I appreciate the power of faith,” or “I understand the power of the Bible.” To the more direct and blunt questions, “Yes I read the Bible now and then, but I wouldn’t call myself religious,” or, “I have not been saved, but I do read the Bible.”

None of it was a lie, but the more direct truth was that even after I had come to see how useful religion was, I still attended services as an outsider trying to understand why faith drew so many people to it. Why it seemed to comfort those who needed it the most. In the language of the church, I wasn’t yet saved. In the language of my friends, I was a scientist trying to understand religion.

I could no longer ignore the value of faith, not as a scientist, not as a person who claimed to want to learn from others. Yet I still saw it as a utility—something popular because it worked. Still, after attending hundreds of different services I was beginning to realize there was more to it than that. My biases were limiting a deeper understanding: that perhaps religion was right, or at least as right as anything could be. Getting there required a level of intellectual humility that I was not sure I had.

When I read this I was blown away. Something is going on! And I am excited!

So where am I? Getting ready for our cross country personal evangelism trip using One Minute Bible Studies. You are welcome to join us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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