But, I thought it was supposed to be “junk”?

Remember how Junk-DNA was supposed to be a blatant indication of the process of methodological naturalism? Remember how all that noncoding fluff in the genome was considered the result of the trial and error nature of the evolutionary process?

Yet, it seems that the junk is not so junky after-all.

In the following video by Dr. Fuz Rana, from Reasons to Believe, he tells us of the importance of the Encode DNA Project, and its findings. In the video he states that the Encode DNA team have determined that about 80% of the human genome consist of functional DNA seqences.

I recall a discussion I had years ago with a friend, who accepts the naturalistic evolutionary mindset, and his response to the apparent fact that so much of the genome was noncoding (i.e., “junk”) was, “And that makes sense from an evolutionary point of view.”

What really makes sense, when one sees the vast integrated complexity of the genome, is that one is looking at the work of a designer. A mindless process? Or the process of a mind?

Morality: it’s no different than burping

In my recent New Covenant post Japan, and God, I made the point that within the worldview of atheism, along with a naturalistic mindset, one cannot escape the conclusion that objective morality is but a mere illusion – a category of behavior that must be reducible solely to physical properties. I referred to the resulting landscape of such a philosophy as a vacuous wasteland, and for good reason, namely – that of the resulting moral relativism.

A commenter engaged me in a discussion on the post, yet he completely ignored the point I was making, choosing to take issue with the rationality of belief in God. He also assumed, incorrectly, that I was claiming atheists are incapable of acting morally.

During our “discussion” a few issues seemed to arise regarding knowledge and morality. The commenter appeared to place a great deal of trust in the scientific method as a means of acquiring knowledge, especially with regards to how it can be used to substantiate (or negate) religious belief. Notice that the definition of knowledge, in the methodology of naturalism, can only refer to that which is natural, concrete, or material – that which can be measured and analyzed empirically. Yet, humans are well aware of the existence of the abstract, or the immaterial. Whether it be the thoughts you perceive in your mind (note, in your mind, not in your brain), or the love that you know you have for a “loved” one, you are aware of and confident in the existence of those abstract realities. Now, consider the fact that the scientific method is incapable of providing data on the abstract realities you know exist – for example, measuring the love you have for your children.

Given the mandate of naturalism, that all which exists is comprised within the natural realm, one must conclude that even the notion we describe as morality is simply an outgrowth of evolutionary processes and, as such, must be guided by natural laws. Indeed, that is what the commenter posited, that moral behavior is simply behavior, and that it was derived from evolutionary processes. While this may sound quite proper on paper, the real-world impact of such a propostion is staggering. If, in fact, what many of us consider to be abstract notions, such as morality, are nothing more than the physical interaction of genes, then objective right and wrong moral values cannot be determined.

Do you see where this leads? If a bear attacks a hiker on a trail, although we lament the tragedy of the event, we do not accuse the bear of moral indiscretion. No, we acknowledge that the bear just did what it does – because of the way its genes are sequenced. Regardless of whether or not the bear acts in manners that mimic human expressions of the abstract, naturalism mandates that such notions are the direct consequence of biology and, as a result, the bear has no objective moral code. Well guess what? If we want to be consistent with our application, then we need to do the same with the human genome. If we are nothing more than particles in motion, then the supposed moral notion “I ought” is reduced to a physical reaction and is no different than any other physical reaction, such as “I have indigestion” (HT: CS Lewis).

Thus, morality, in the world of naturalism, is no different than burping.

For further reference, check these articles by Greg Koukl, at Stand to Reason:
How to know immaterial things exist

What science can’t prove

Did morals evolve

Geisler, Dembski, Strobel, and more – Saturday 11/6 in southern California

For those in southern California, check out the Apologetics Conference at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, tomorrow (Saturday) at 8 a.m. Some of those speaking, throughout the day, include: Ergun Caner, William Dembski, Norm Geisler, and Lee Strobel. Best of all, the event is FREE!

Not in southern California? There is supposed to be a live stream of the conference at this link.

More Info:

Stephen Meyer & William Dembski, tonight

For those in southern California, check out the Apologetics Conference at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, tonight at 6 p.m. On tap for the evening are Steve Collins, Stephen Meyer, and William Dembski. Best of all, the event is FREE!

Not in southern California? There is supposed to be a live stream of the conference at this link.

More Info:

Missing the bigger picture

An interesting conversation took place, recently, at First Thoughts. Joe Carter wrote A Walk to the Moon, and Stephen Barr responded. And then, there were the 150+ comments.

The topic is Intelligent Design.

Now, rather than attempt to re-hash the arguments and discussions at these posts, I’d rather comment on what I consider to be the limited field all those involved seem to playing in. I’ve watched,  and participated, in this debate for several years now, and one thing I’ve noticed is how predictable the paths of argumentation are. E.g., Intelligent Design (ID) is simply the concept of irreducible complexity (IC), ID is God of the gaps, Methodological Naturalism (MN) is science of the gaps, MN cannot produce increasing information, the fossil record provides evidence for MN, the fossil record provides evidence for ID, implied design is just that – implied. The debate can, believe me, go on and on.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if most of those involved in such debates are somehow missing the bigger picture. Consider that many of those involved are engaged in work in the sciences, or perhaps scholars, etc. Since the topic is, essentially, design, how many of those involved are intimately familiar with the design process? And, by “design”, I’m not necessarily referring to artistic design, although that too can be discussed in this context. What I’m referring to, by use of the word “design”, is more akin to engineering design – that which occurs when one is designing and building a mechanical component of some sort.

In the world outside of science and academia, the act of engineering design is readily seen in many areas. One example is the design of an oil refinery. The basic process involved in an oil refinery is that a product comes in (crude oil) and a product, or several products, goes out (refined fuels).  However, to get from the “in” to the “out” requires a multitude of apparatus such as pumps, air coolers, specialized refining vessels, rotating equipment, pipeways, steel structures, electrical transformers, control instruments, electrical wiring, foundations, etc. Each of these individual units are either custom designed, or are selected based on design parameters.

The term I just used, “design parameters”, doesn’t seem to come up much in ID / MN debates, yet no design project in the world would go forward were it not for design parameters. Design parameters are specifications which engineers and designers use to guide the type of design they come up with. These parameters essentially dictate the end result. An oil refinery project may have unique design parameters based on a variety of factors. For example, design and construction projects must be funded and, if cash flows are limited, the design and execution of the project may also be limited (a parameter)). The upstream product, what goes “in” to the refinery, may be of a certain quality or type that then dictates the type of refining equipment to be designed. The desired output product will dictate the type of process to be designed. The geographical location of a project will dictate the physical layout of the design. At the micro level, specific pieces of equipment may be designed based on availability, or even client preference. And, it should be noted, these design factors follow through into the actual construction of the equipment and refinery.

So, how does this apply to the ID / MN debate?

As we discover more about the biological realm, we find more complexity, both integrated and, as some would argue, irreducible. Regardless of whether or not the complexity is irreducible, though, the point is that we find structures and systems that exhibit the characteristics of design. As Joe Carter pointed out, this characteristic is essentially accepted by both camps (Intelligent Design vs. Bind Watchmaker Design). That fact alone, in my opinion, mandates that design principles and methodologies, in the world outside of academia, be addressed as to how they relate, or don’t relate, to biological systems.

Despite the overwhelming prevalence of evolutionary teaching, in the U.S., over the past 50 years, the general population still has a difficult time accepting it as fact. Academia claims that such results simply justify the need for more education. Yet could it be that the general population simply sees something that the academics don’t? Could it be that the general population has the common sense ability to correlate complex biological (and natural) systems with human designed systems?

Could it be academia that is missing the bigger picture?

When I began work, out of university, a joke was told to me about a Ph.D. graduate who had landed his first job at an engineering firm. After orientation, he was taken to his work station, introduced to his fellow co-workers, and then given a broom. “What’s this for?”, he asks. “We need the storeroom swept up,” responds his boss. “But,” the Ph.D. employee replies, “I’ve got a Ph.D.!” His boss thinks for a moment, and then says, “Oh, yes. I forgot.” His boss then takes the broom from him and, as he sweeps back and forth, says, “This is how you sweep.”

It seems to me that too many individuals in the ID / MN debate brush off references to human design as being non-applicable. Yet if design is what is being discussed, whether it is Intelligent Design or Blind Watchmaker Design, then we had better be about educating ourselves in how design occurs.

[In my opinion, Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross, at Reasons to Believe, are pioneering an approach to ID that attempts to incorporate human design processes.]

Dawkins, Creationists, and books

I don’t think they [creationists] read books anyway, except for one book. It’s aimed at the intelligent layperson who does read books and who vaguely knows a little bit about evolution…

So says Richard Dawkins, author of The Greatest Show on Earth, in a Salon interview.

Hmmm. Let’s see.

I’m a creationist (of the Old Earth variety) and, while I don’t consider myself well read, I have read The Origin of Species, Finding Darwin’s God, Tower of Babel, Night Comes to the Cretaceous, Rare Earth, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and A Brief History of Time, just to name a few books from the non-creationist book bin.

It can’t be this easy.

On the imago dei, and putting humans down

About 25 years ago I owned a dog that, as time marched on, began experiencing the effects of aging. The dog, a Sheltie, got to the point where her walking was labored, resulting in muscle spasms. Consequently, we began discussing taking her in to the vet to be put down. My grandmother, bless her heart, objected to that course of action. Her reason?

If we put the dog down, because of old age, then what’s to stop us from putting her down, because of old age?

We quietly chuckled at the absurdity of her concerns.

Now (HT: Doug) enter a British medical ethics “expert” who has recommended that people be

“licensed to put others down” if they are unable to look after themselves.

How is it that we’ve gone from the age-old notion of putting animals down, to that of putting humans down? Are we beginning to see a clear juxtaposition between the Judeo-Christian view of The Imago Dei, and that of naturalism, which sees us as nothing more than clothed apes?