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Where the Light Is

“And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true.”
– The Book of Mormon, Alma 30:40-41

If you check the comments on my Science of Resurrection post my friend James, who I have known since time immemorial, is having a long-running discussion with his atheist brother who, for purposes of discussion, we’ll refer to as “Josh,” because that’s his name. The discussion uses lots of big words and is somewhat hard to follow, but the bottom line is that Josh believes there is no God, because there is no material evidence of His existence.

To which my response is, “Sez who?”

Like Alma, I see “all things as a testimony” that there is a divine creator. Reasonably speaking, the mathematical likelihood of life accidentally arising in all of its various permutations is so close to zero that it’s not even worth considering. Evolution’s inability to offer a plausible alternative also ought to be put in the “plus” column as evidence in God’s favor.

Consider, for instance, that Darwin himself provided a standard for whether or not his theory could adequately explain life.

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications,” he said, “my theory would absolutely break down.”

In Darwin’s age, nothing was known about molecular biology and the inner workings of the cell. Today, Intelligent Design proponents* have pointed out several different biological constructs that are irreducibly complex. Michael Behe points to the flagellum, which provides the cell’s “tiny outboard motor.” The flagellum is constructed of 46 moving parts. If you only have 45 of the 46, you don’t have a slightly-less-useful flagellum; you’ve got nothing but genetic junk that doesn’t do anything. In order for natural selection to produce something like this by accident, each of those 46 components have to come together perfectly, because even 45 out of 46 provide no genetic advantage and therefore are completely useless in natural selection.

The eye. The ear. DNA. The central nervous system. The taste bud. Each of these things have millions, if not billions, of tiny, microscopic, moving parts that they face the same challenge as the flagellum on a far greater scale. Darwinian evolution can’t explain them. To objectively examine this data and conclude that there is no design behind them requires deliberate rejection of the most likely logical conclusion.

Now this hasn’t “disproven” Darwinian biology, because Darwinian biology provides workable explanations for many observable facts in the natural world – adaptation of species to fit their surroundings, for instance, even it gives no insight into how the basic building blocks of life began. When asked those questions, an honest biologist should answer, “we don’t know.” Which, of course, is a perfectly valid response. Science rarely “knows,” since it never reaches final conclusions. It’s always subject to change based on new data, and if the data don’t exist, science stays mum.

So have I proved God exists? Not at all. I think I’ve effectively demonstrated gaps in Darwinian theory to explain the origins of life, and I’ve offered a suggestion that biological constructs are designed by intelligence. But the theories to explain that intelligence are endless, and only a few of them would include a God who sent His only son to die for our sins. Some have proposed the idea of aliens seeding the earth with life in a theory called “panspermia.” There’s the theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who made us for fun and then used his noodly appendages to plant fake dinosaur bones to freak out paleontologists. There’s Scientology, which says the evil galactic emperor Xenu trapped billions of spirits on here on Earth – or Teegeeack, as they say it in Scientologese – with Hawaiian volcanic explosions.

The best evidence for God’s existence is internal, not external.

We are born with an innate understanding of eternal moral standards. That’s why you will not find a civilization that applauds murder for material gain, that teaches children that dishonesty is the best policy, that recommends adultery as a course to lasting happiness. As C.S. Lewis states in Mere Christianity:

I know that some people say the idea of a [Moral] Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities. But this is not true… Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five.

This provides internal guidance suggesting we ought to behave in a certain way, and we are always unhappy when we ignore that guidance. Psychologists call it “conscience” and try to explain it away as an evolutionary fluke, despite any lack of scientific evidence to back them up. The Book of Mormon calls this “the light of Christ,” and it offers it up as the best evidence yet there is a divine being who has a very specific moral definition for what a good human being is.

To truly find God, one should spend less time studying science and more time searching their own soul.

I quoted this story in the comments section of my resurrection post, but it bears repeating. These discussions remind me of the old story of the guy who lost his keys at night and looks for them under the light of a streetlamp.

Another guy comes along. “What are you doing?” he asks.

“I’m looking for my keys,” answers Guy #1.

“Did you lose them over there?” asks Guy #2.

“No, I lost them by the curb.”

“So why are you looking for them over there by the streetlamp?”

“Because this is where the light is.”

People looking for God in science are essentially looking in the wrong place. They think they’re seeing things clearly and that the way is illuminated, but they’re actually stumbling in darkness. If you’re only willing to look where the light is, you’re going to miss the only light that matters.

___________________

*Intelligent Design folks have raised some very interesting questions, but they haven’t offered a workable scientific theory to replace evolution, and, therefore, they shouldn’t be interjected into science classrooms. Just saying “it was designed!” offers no useful scientific information. Imagine walking into a GM plant and trying to find out how cars are made and having the plant manager say “they were designed!” and nothing else. Good luck replicating their manufacturing processes.

...And Why The Music Man Makes No Sense.
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  1. Ji…er, Stallion? Josh here. James sent me a link to this blog post. Since it appears to be sort of addressed to me, and it has ignited a heated debate in your comments section, I guess I’ll add my two cents to the flood of responses.

    First off, I quickly checked your Science of Resurrection post to see what James was saying about me that inspired this post. And you’re right: somewhat hard to follow. Especially in light of the fact that those words of mine were of private conversations he and I have had, intended in response to his hundreds of peppered and somewhat awkwardly-formed private questions he hurls at me regularly, so they are largely out of context in your blog comments. What’s more, some of James’s paraphrasing of my beliefs are inaccurate. I’ve corrected him on a number of these more than once, but he continues to re-state the inaccuracies. Such is the bane of my existence. But I have other things to do than constantly correct my brother’s misunderstandings of my beliefs.

    Setting that aside, I don’t think your blog post really addresses much of anything James and I had been privately talking about, which was largely focused on consciousness, not atheism. (I don’t blame you for not knowing that.) Notwithstanding, I’ll respond to a few of your questions and statements that you have brought up here.

    Stallion: “Josh believes…there is no material evidence of [God’s] existence….To which my response is, ‘Sez who?’”

    The answer is in the statement: Josh sez.

    But that’s okay, because you go on to demonstrate I’m wrong by producing the evidence, because “all things” is evidence?

    To which I say: That’s a pretty low standard of criteria…in fact, it may very well be the lowest standard possible. I can only imagine the endless permutations of the infinite conversations this premise could lead to:

    “Hitler and the Nazis murdered millions of innocent Jews,” says Guy 1.

    “Evidence God exists,” says Guy 2, stalwartly.

    ****************************************************************************

    “I started crapping out blood last month. Saw my doctor who ran some tests; discovered I have terminal colon cancer,” says Guy 1.

    “Evidence God exists,” says Guy 2, proudly.

    ****************************************************************************

    “Wife gave birth last week,” says Guy 1.

    “What’d you guys have? Boy or girl?” asks Guy 2.

    “Hermaphrodite,” answers Guy 1.

    “Evidence God exists,” says Guy 2.

    ****************************************************************************

    “Just saw the finale season to Battlestar Galactica,” says Guy 1.

    “Ummm…evidence God exists?” says Guy 2, dubiously.

    ****************************************************************************

    “Was watching TV last night and saw Dancing with the Stars announced Chaz Bono will be a contestant for next season,” says Guy 1.

    “Ahhh…evidence God exi—Oh screw it!” says Guy 2 in exasperation.

    ****************************************************************************

    I guess you must have felt this “evidence” was lacking, however, as you later went on to say: “But have I proved God exists? Not at all.”

    Oh. I see.

    But wait, that wasn’t the BEST evidence.

    Oh, well what IS the best evidence, Stallion?

    “The best evidence for God’s existence is internal [moral standards], not external.” After all, C.S. Lewis says so.

    The BEST evidence for God’s existence to a Mormon comes not from the rationale of another Mormon, but from a non-Mormon? Maybe the Church of England is the one true church?

    And BEST evidence?

    I guess it’s a simple equation: M (morals)=G(God). Or simply: M=G. But does M really equal G?

    Stallion: “That’s why you will not find a civilization that applauds murder for material gain…”

    Sure, you’ll find INDIVIDUALS who murder (1 Nephi 4:10, 18), but not CIVILIZATIONS. And that’s the key qualification to this equation of M=G.

    Wait a sec…what’s this? “[T]he Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.” (Mormon 8:2). Oh, so civilizations DO murder?

    But just a sec…they didn’t do it for material gain did they? Maybe THAT’S the key qualification to M=G. Let’s read a bit further in Mormon here…oh, wait, verse 9 mentions something about robbers?

    Hmmm…so confusing…

    I dunno, M=G doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny.

    So is there ANY evidence God exists?

    Stallion: “Evolution’s inability to offer a plausible alternative also ought to be put in the ‘plus’ column as evidence in God’s favor.”

    Oh? Go on.

    Stallion: “Intelligent Design proponents have pointed out several different biological constructs that are irreducibly complex. Michael Behe points to the flagellum…”

    So the evidences produced by Intelligent Design proponents are evidence in God’s favor? Or in favor of some Intelligent Designer? Because it seems to me these are not exactly the same things. I mean, isn’t Satan, hypothetically speaking, an Intelligent Designer? Or Xenu? Or Allah? Or Thor? Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Or sadistic Aliens?

    Hmmm…so confusing…

    Fortunately, we need not worry about that little conundrum since all these “irreducibly complex” constructs are, in fact, reducible. You say, “The flagellum is constructed of 46 moving parts. If you only have 45 of the 46, you don’t have a slightly-less-useful flagellum; you’ve got nothing but genetic junk that doesn’t do anything.” Accept that when you remove about 20 of those protein components of the bacterial flagellum, you get a highly effective “syringe” that is used by the bacteria that transmits the bubonic plague (which is estimated to have killed 30-40 percent of the European population in the 14th Century, incidentally. Evidence of God? Hmmm…). Here’s a link to a Nova documentary that will help you visualize this reducibility of the bacterial flagellum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_5FToP_mMY&feature=related

    In the meantime, I’m still open and waiting for evidence of God’s existence. And if he does exist, the question of his benevolence is a whole other topic.

  2. Ahh, Evolution — the legendary Bugaboo for those who rely upon the Revealed Word. Why does it matter? If you’re religious, just ignore it. Irregardless, of course.

      • Exactly! And, in keeping within the Homo Spirit of the Moist Blog, it matters not that a phylogenetic analysis of Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens sapiens does not conclusively prove the transitional hominid fossil hypothesis. I mean, who cares, right? It’s not like Scientology is a silly hypothesis. Irregardless, of course.

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